Friendly Viticulture Farming

by Dick Starr

Happily, there has recently been renewed interest in earth friendly farming techniques. Although I’ve previously written on these topics, let me try to present a succinct delineation on these important environmentally friendly practices. Space prohibits the descriptions to be comprehensive. All are nature-based, eco-friendly, ecosystems that integrate land, plants, water, climate, and people. Each, however, differs in their respective mandates.

Sustainable Viticulture

This does not require certification and is the easiest to achieve. Its main tenets are economic, social, and environmental sustainability. The economic sustainability is achieved by selecting profitable enterprises, sound financial planning, proactive marketing, risk management, and good overall management.

Social sustainability is accomplished by connecting with the local community, buying locally, educating neighboring communities, and establishing a quality of life for those who live and work in the vineyards.

Environmental sustainability looks at four ecosystems that conserve soil, water resources, and reduce operating costs: energy flow, water cycle, mineral cycle, and ecosystem dynamics.

Organic Viticulture

Organic farming requires certification by a federally approved agency like the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Rodale coined the term in the mid-1940s and advocated covered cropping and composting to forge soil fertility. The increase in the soil’s organic matter produces healthier, more nutritious plants that are more resistant to pests and disease. A National Organic Program was created in 2000 and issued the following regulations in 2002: a) Crops must use organically grown seeds. b) Genetically modified organisms are not permitted and growers must take steps to prevent contamination. c) Composting, and d) Covered cropping. No synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or industrial fertilizers are permitted. Beneficial insects are encouraged.

Biodynamic Farming

This requires certification and is considered to be the most rigorous of organic farming. The 76 year old Demeter Association is the universal standard and is used only for agriculture and horticulture. The U.S. branch certified its 1st farm in 1982. Practices include soil husbandry, preparations to promote soil health, and integration of livestock. The sun, lunar, and seasonal cycles are used to create ideal growth conditions. There should be an effort to avoid planting near high voltage lines.

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