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Study Reveals High Use of Eco-Friendly Practices at California Winegrape Vineyards

October 15, 2009


SAN FRANCISCO - The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) has released a report funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) revealing that 101 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," and is available online.  

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, 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 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 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 winegrapes and wine produced with sustainable winegrowing practices.

The NFWF requested the 2008 study to learn the motivations for why California winegrowers use environmentally sustainable farming practices, the extent to which they use these practices and the impacts of these practices on their vineyard operations.  NFWF believes the survey information can be useful to growers who have not yet tried these sustainable practices, those who have already adopted the practices, program planners and educators in this field, and policy-makers interested in agriculture.  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 also 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.


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