The terraced vineyards of Soave, a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage GIAHS-FAO site, have been chosen as the first location for the meeting of TerrACE, a project within a larger European program Horizon 2020, that addresses the study and conservation of terraced agriculture across Europe. The project will last five years and has been financed for 2.5 million euro by the European Research Council (ERC), the most prestigious European agency for financed research, that chooses exclusively on the basis of solid scientific criteria.

On February 14th and 15th the researchers convened for the first time in Soave. The project is coordinated by the esteemed geographer Prof. Antony Brown from the University of Tromsø (Norway) with colleagues arriving from the University of Padua (Italy), the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), University of York (England), University of Salzburg (Austria) and the University of Barcellona (Spain).

The objective of their research is to identify ancient terracing in Europe and to study which effects in the past had in particular an effect on the erosion and the degradation of the soil and on the stocking of carbon and other organic materials. This is to better understand which can be the effects of climate change and social evolution, and if the terracing is an effective response to these threats.

Prof. Paolo Tarolli, who already leads the PSR Soilution System task force (innovative systems to reduce the risk of erosion and a more effective management of the soil in hillside and mountain vineyards), will lead the Italian research with Sara Cucchiaro to create 3D digital terrain models in high resolution of the existing and abandoned terraced hills, using topographic data gathered by drones and laser scanning.

The area of Soave is where most of the current research data is concentrated, and researchers have already discovered terraces dating back to over two hundred years ago. This is just some of the proof that allowed Soave to become a member of the elite rural landscapes recognized by the FAO.

“The terraces and dry stone walls are a part of Soave’s history, where the growers had to work hard to maintain and use every centimeter of fertile soil to cultivate the grapes”, explains Sandro Gini, President of the Soave Consorzio. He continues, “We can’t help being extremely proud to have been chosen for such a prestigious project, that will bring our story to the world stage. Every year, we are witnessing global upheavals of agricultural practices that are the basis not only of food and livelihood, but also of the social fabric of communities. We need to strengthen the threads that intertwine and keep people bound to the place where they were born, allowing continuity and reliability in the world markets of products with a strong identity and value.”