In Mediterranean agriculture, periodic water scarcity makes precision irrigation essential for the good management of grapes and vegetable production. With South-Western Europe set to face increasingly uncertain precipitation patterns, coupled with a rising demand for water, precision irrigation will play an increasingly important role in viticulture.
Precision irrigation represents one of the main achievements of the smart farming revolution. By incorporating variability in field and crop conditions with off-farm input applications, precision farming is key to improving water use efficiency (WUE) and overcoming the challenges associated with climate change adaptation.
But ICT-enabled viticulture goes way beyond irrigation: variable-rate farming equipment can adjust fertilizer-use and pesticide spraying to field variability as well. In addition, connected sensors can map variations in yield and grape quality. This enables winegrowers to separate grapes of different quality during harvests.
However, the uptake of precision farming is dependent on broadband internet access by farmers. Take remote monitoring for water pressure in grapes, for example. Many Californian winegrowers grapple with low-speed access, with some of them obliged to improvise on redundant connections to guarantee the reliability of their monitoring systems, a price to pay to guard against grape losses from unanticipated water scarcity.
Ubiquitous broadband in rural areas: what can the EU do?
The EU currently supports investments in broadband through a wide array of instruments, often in conjunction with regional authorities. These include the CAP Rural Development Policy, the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion fund. For the 2014-2020 period, an estimated €6.4 billion of the aforementioned EU funds is earmarked to rolling out high-speed broadband in Europe.
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