Published January 15, 2011
The South Tyrol Advisory Service performs many of the same services that Cooperative Extension does in the United States—educating growers about integrated pest management, irrigation, fertility, and nutrition. The biggest difference is funding.
The budgets of Cooperative Extension in the United States are often squeezed when state and local revenues fall, and, of late, some have been hit especially hard. In South Tyrol, the extension service is more like a private organization, with growers paying about half the budget and local governments paying the other half.
South Tyrol’s extension service, called Beratungsring, was established more than 50 years ago. Growers in the region pay a graduated fee based on the number of hectares, which supports 30 extension advisors that are divided among seven regions. Twenty advisors work with apple growers, seven with vineyardists, and three with organic growers. Some 45,000 acres of apples are grown in the region.
Extension advisor Markus Bradlwarter has 700 apple growers in his district, representing 5,000 acres. Though it’s a voluntary program, he said that 90 percent of the growers in the region are members. A grower with a little more than 10 acres pays between €429 to 536 (U.S.$560 to $700) annually, he said.
The extension service communicates with grower members through printed and digital materials (electronic newsletters, monthly magazines, annual IPM guides and bulletins) and holds field meetings every two to three weeks from March until harvest.
During winter months, the latest research is shared at seminars and meetings. Internet services provide weather data, a frost and hail warning service, and alerts when scab and fireblight disease pressures are high. The Maryblyt model is used to help predict blossom infection risk from fireblight.
Extension advisors also work closely with horticultural research stations in the region. The South Tyrol organization’s annual budget is around €3.2 million (U.S.$4.2 million), according to information on its Web site.
To learn more about Italy’s extension services, visit www.beratungsring.org.