FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

FAO provides sound basis for sustainable grape production in Armenia

Grape harvest in Alashkert community of Armavir region, Armenia.

Viticulture is one of Armenia’s most recognizable and valuable national assets. The history of wine growing in Armenia dates back over 6 000 years. For the past five years, FAO projects have been addressing plant pest (phylloxera) issues and laying the groundwork for sustainable grape production in Armenia.

Currently, the sector is at a critical phase of its development.

Until very recently, Armenia used to be considered immune from phylloxera because its climatic conditions were not suitable for the insect’s biological cycle. However, presently, the Armenia viticulture sector appears to have become susceptible, perhaps due to the changes in environmental (climatic) conditions that made the country more vulnerable to the spread of this pest. In the worst case, the phylloxera epidemic will destroy all of Armenia’s vineyards just as it did in Europe (most notably in France, but also in Italy) in the late nineteenth century.

Strategic quality choices need to be made at both processing and primary production levels. At the primary production level, farmers suffer from unfavourable weather conditions and natural disasters. One of the biggest and emerging threats to Armenian farmers is that of phylloxera – a soil-borne pest with the potential of wiping out entire vineyards. The aphid-like insect, which originated in North America, lives in the soil and attacks the roots of vines by sacking their sap.

A two-day workshop was held starting on 10 December in Yerevan to conclude and showcase the main achievements of the projects, including:

  • establishment of a vineyard collection with around 300 varieties;
  • creation of a demonstration vineyard with modern technologies for two varieties for training purposes;
  • development of rootstock vineyards for production of phylloxera-resistant grape plantlets;
  • establishment of a workstation for grafting with modern equipment;
  • staff training for grafting and planting materials production at all stages;
  • elaboration on the national programme for phylloxera monitoring in the country; and
  • recommendations for establishment of a certification system for phylloxera-resistant planting materials.

This is a very serious issue for Armenia because vineyards planted with phylloxera-resistant rootstocks do not exceed 10 percent (in Tavush region). The seriousness of the phylloxera threat calls for the restructuring of Armenia’s entire viticulture sector. The remedy consists of uprooting the self-rooted vine varieties and replacing them with Armenian vines grafted on American phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Armenia requested assistance from FAO after the pest’s introduction into the Ararat Valley in recent years.

“FAO projects created good bases for viticulture sector development in Armenia and we believe the government will take appropriate actions for ensuring sustainably of the projects and will expand them,” noted FAO senior agriculture officer Avetik Nersisyan, who has overseen the projects from the beginning. “The collection vineyards and rootstock orchards should be open to all scientists, researchers, and producers.”

The projects provided Armenian farmers and extension staff with training in the latest methods for the production of grape planting materials, as well as modern vineyard management, including integrated pest management, use of drip irrigation, anti-hail netting, pruning, and other techniques.

Among the workshop participants were representatives from the Ministry of Economy, the Food Safety Inspectorate of the Republic of Armenia, and relevant development agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions, and farmers.

11 December 2019, Yerevan, Armenia

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