The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has released a report funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation revealing that 101 winegrowers surveyed throughout California have a remarkably high level of adoption of sustainable vineyard management practices.
About 60 percent of the 101 surveyed winegrowers reported using 10 or more of the 16 environmentally friendly farming practices included in the study. The six most-used practices, adopted by 80 percent or more of the growers, are:
* Regular monitoring of pest insects and/or diseases
* Use of reduced risk pesticides
* Reduced tillage or no-till approaches
* Conservation of natural vegetation on vineyard property
* Leaf pulling
* Planting cover crops in the vineyard
Winegrowers offered a variety of reasons for adopting these vineyard practices, with the most common being concern about the environmental impact of their farming operations, including conservation of natural resources such as soil.
The economic benefits of the practices also are important to growers. Monitoring for pests and diseases, monitoring water use, planting cover crops, and reducing tillage are all associated with significant cost savings. Several practices, such as leaf pulling, also improve the quality of winegrapes.
Almost half of the growers expressed an interest in adopting alternative energy sources such as solar- or wind-powered systems, but high capital costs and potentially long payback periods are mentioned as deterrents.
Many are interested in releasing beneficial insects or planting more habitat such as hedgerows, but feel constrained by lack of knowledge and experience. Finding viable alternatives to chemical weed control and improving water conservation also are high on the priority list of those surveyed.
Many of the grower participants praised the Sustainable Winegrowing Program for helping them learn about more sustainable farming practices.
The survey was conducted by University of California Davis researchers in collaboration with CSWA. Survey participants were winegrowers who participated in the CSWA program.
In early 2010, CSWA plans to publish a comprehensive 2009-10 Progress Report on the California wine community’s adoption and target goals of the best practices related to the 500-page Code of Sustainable Winegrowing workbook. More than 1,500 vintners and growers — representing approximately 60% of the state’s wine case production and vineyard acreage — have self-assessed their operations at 125 introductory workshops. More than 5,500 vintners and growers have attended 135 targeted education workshops.