Spring Mountain Vineyard, located in the St. Helena sub-appellation of California’s Napa Valley, is one of eight businesses being honored by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation for its innovative work on the front lines of the war against pests.
DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam will present the IPM Innovator Awards this afternoon in the Sierra Hearing Room on the second floor of the California Environmental Protection Agency in Sacramento. The public is invited.
Spring Mountain Vineyard was selected for its long and positive leadership in integrated pest management strategies that have been adopted by other growers. Developed in collaboration with University of California scientists, these strategies include introducing and incorporating beneficial insects and birds into the vineyard’s management practices to eliminate the use of herbicides and insecticides.
Vineyard Manager Ron Rosenbrand said the privately owned wine estate has been opened to U.C. Berkeley researchers for vine mealybug and native bumble bee and bee studies, to U.C. Santa Cruz for bluebird studies, and the Napa County Resource and Conservation District for numerous erosion control studies and research into soil particulates in streams for fish habitat.
In 2006, Spring Mountain Vineyard was the only winery to receive permission from the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner to control mealybugs with an aggressive bio-control program rather than insecticides. Working with U.C. Berkeley, Rosenbrand said he and his staff experimented with many different insects. Through various trials, it was determined that two insects are effective: Crypotolaemus, a beetle commonly known as the vine mealybug destroyer, and Anagyrus, a parasitic wasp.
This approach controlled the spread of the vine mealybug at Spring Mountain and is now being copied in vineyards around the area and state as an effective alternative to insecticides.
“We have learned a tremendous amount from these researchers,” Rosenbrand said. “I have trained several of my employees to do the work that the researchers were doing so that we can continue the monitoring process. We have hosted seminars to share and demonstrate what we have learned so that other growers may develop a more environmentally friendly approach to farming.”
Most of the 225 vineyard acres of the 845-acre Spring Mountain estate are on steep terrain and located near forests with diverse animal habitats that require careful management. Spring Mountain has eliminated the use of insecticides and herbicides in environmentally friendly ways:
* Building and installing hundreds of birdhouses to encourage bluebirds that eat blue-green sharpshooters which carry Pierce’s Disease.
* Weed control management utilizing a variety of sustainable methods, the most charming of which involve flocks of grazing sheep, not machinery, to reduce spring grasses between the vine rows.
Spring Mountain’s “no herbicide, no insecticide” program has eliminated the possibility of worker exposure and contamination, and demonstrates that these practices are economically sound.