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Uphill Battle: New Machine Could Save German Vineyards

November 27th, 2013

Steeply Sloped German Vineyards Hope Technology Can Save Them – SPIEGEL ONLINE

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Cultivating steeply inclined vineyards requires time-intensive manual labor, often with cables akin to those used for rock climbing. All together, one hectare in one season can cost around 1,500 hours of labor. On flat land, where vintners can use tractors and automated harvesting vehicles, they can cultivate the land for about 180 hours of labor. “You can hardly compensate for this difference by charging more for top-quality wines from sun-kissed hillside vineyards,” says [Hans-Peter Schwarz, 53, head of the Institute for Technology at Geisenheim University.]

Even more pressure on owners of sloped vineyards is coming from Brussels. The European Union wants to liberalize the wine market and gradually phase out a regulations that has thus far created comfortable breathing room for grape growers. Specifically targeted is Germany’s legally mandated freeze on developing new vineyards. The law caps the land space allowed for viticulture at just over 100,000 hectares. Anyone who wants to enter the grape-growing business must either take an already cultivated vineyard or prove that a similarly sized vineyard in the same region has been shut down.

The researchers at Geisenheim University believe their vineyard-climbing vehicle Geisi could streamline the operations of sloped vineyards, encouraging their owners to continue cultivating their difficult land.

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