CALIFORNIA VINEYARDS KEEP UP the GREEN EFFORT
The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) has released a report funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) revealing that 1O1 winegrowers surveyed throughout California, have a remarkably high level of adoption of sustainable vineyard management practices. Complete survey results are detailed in the report, titled “Understanding Adoption and Impacts of Sustainable Practices: Sustainable Winegrowing Program Participants’ Survey” (sustainablewinegrowing.org/publications). About 6O percent of those surveyed reported using 1O or more of the 16 environmentally friendly farming practices included in the study. The six most-used practices, adopted by 8O percent or more of the growers, include: 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; and 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 impacts of their farming operations, including conservation of natural resources, such as soil. The economic benefits of the practices 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 wine grapes. 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 are also 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. Constructive suggestions offered for the future direction of the program include an emphasis on increasing public awareness about issues of sustainability in farming and encouraging the purchase of wine grapes and wine produced with sustainable winegrowing practices.