The Delinat Institute’s Charter For Vineyard Biodiversity

Ξ December 17th, 2009 | → 2 Comments | ∇ International Terroirs, Technology, Wine News |

I received an important update from my friend Hans-Peter Schmidt. He is Managing Director and Head of Research for the Delinat Institute in Switzerland. He is also a viticulturist and winemaker at Mythopia, essentially the organization’s center. Founded June 5th, 2009, the Delinat Institute is dedicated to
“the scientific development of ecologically holistic strategies for an economically viable, carbon neutral farming with high biodiversity.”
One of the Institutes principle concepts is that of climate farming which argues for a rich mixture of organic, biodynamic and sustainable practices. From their website:
• Consequently breaks the monocultural systems
• Increases and sustains soil and above ground biodiversity
• Stabilizes the vineyard ecosystem and the commercial output by a sophisticated use of mixed cultures (vegetables, fruits, trees, shrubs, herbs, wine, flowers, mushrooms, bees, livestock, energy source plants in complementary coexistence).
• Optimizes nutrient cycles by the use of green manures, compost and biochar
• Renunciation of artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides
• Protects the plants through stimulation of self-defence mechanisms and promotion of biodiversity, which is complemented by microbial and herbal preparation.
• Generates energy from solar power, wind and biomass
• Provides carbon sinks by the production of biochar and humus
• Is engaged in landscape protection through aestheticization of the agricultural space
• Maintains and conserves the diversity of varieties and species, protects endangered plants and animals
• Opens up new perspectives for humans to live in harmony with nature

And it is with these ideas, located under the concept of climate farming, that they approach all the vineyards at which they consult. Their vineyards include Château Duvivier (Var, France), Quaderna Via (Navarra-Spain), Albet i Noya (Penedes-Spain), Mythopia (Wallis, Switzerland), Fasoli (Veneto, Italy), Hirschhof (Rheinhessen, Germany) and Meinklang (Austria).
Now comes news of their recently published Charter for Vineyard Biodiversity, the update referenced above. But the Delinat Istitute is not interested in launching another certification program. As Peter explained to me,
“We do not plan a new label, certification or something bureaucratic. We try to motivate others toward ecological transformation and to inform about the background of the different measures. The Charter is not only an ecological statement but a plea for Terroir quality management and preservation of viticultural traditions. The Charter is designed in such a way that every winery client can walk through the vineyard and do the eco-control with his own eyes.
The Charter is the baseline for Delinat production directives, and will be implemented by about 100 vineyards throughout Europe starting from 2010. The Charter is open to every vintner and is actually finding a great interest from many vineyards owners, both organic and conventional. The Charter is the baseline for the consulting work of Delinat-Institut.”

One of the finest documents of it’s kind I’ve read in a very long time, I would encourage all to share in its nuance, beauty and scientific rigor. Delinat Institute’s Charter offers some of the best of progressive agricultural thinking a reader may hope to encounter. And they can make it profitable!
Charter for Vineyard Biodiversity
Authored by the Delinat-Institute, Switzerland
The principal idea of the new methods for quality-orientated wine growing is a precise encouragement of biodiversity. Nevertheless, the idea only arises indirectly from that aesthetic image of a vineyard where one can smell flowers and where the grasshoppers are jumping around. Vineyard biodiversity is rather based on the concept of understanding the vineyard as an ecosystem, whose flexible balance is formed by means of a complex network of a high biological diversity.
The promotion of biodiversity is not the goal itself, but the path for the establishment of the vineyard as a stable ecosystem.
The main objective for the encouragement of biodiversity is to convert the vineyards into stable ecological systems and to increase the quality of the Terroir by means of a sustainable use of natural forces.
Biodiversity of the soil and the soil-cover
1. The encouragement of biodiversity in the vineyard starts from the reactivation of the soils. For this purpose only bioactive manure is applied: compost, compost extracts, herb extracts, green manure, biochar, mulch and BRF (fragmented wood). The uses of artificial manure, concentrated fertilizer, herbicides or liquid fertilizer are not allowed. An application of non-composted animal manure must equally be avoided.
2. Installation of a constant green manure through leguminous plants between the stocks. Re-creation of a closed material flow and thereby guaranteeing a nutritive supply of the stocks without the need of an additional artificial manure. The sowing of a grand variety of leguminous plants provides a very high biological activity of the soil and improves the storage of water and nutrients as well as controlling erosion.
3. Green soil cover all year round. The goal is to achieve a plantation rich in species with autochthonous flowers. At least 20% of the seeds mixture for the green manure must be composed of plants with flowers that attract insects. In total, one must be able to find at least 50 types of wild plants in the vineyard.
Vertical Biodiversity
4. Planting bushes at the end of the respective rows where they do not interfere with the work cycles. The criteria for choosing bushes is based on the potential attractiveness to butterflies and other insects, the nesting possibilities, the symbiosis of the roots and the use of their fruits. Autochthonous species will be planted.
5. Planting hedges as an intermediate line between the stocks. Depending on the local conditions, at least 2 x 20m of closed hedges per hectare. The hedges are potent biodiversity hotspots and as aisles, ideal for a network connection of ecological areas. As natural barriers between the rows they hold back epidemics of harmful fungus.
6. Planting fruit trees for the improvement of vertical diversity. Trees planted among plants of lower height and in badly structured cultivation areas represent an enormous attraction for birds, insects and other groups of animals, and encourage a re-population of the ecological habitat. Trees that are outstanding in an aerial plankton also act as collectors of spores; an area from where the yeasts and other fungus can expand in the vineyard (diversity of natural yeasts for the wine making and as a competition for harmful fungus). At least one tree should be planted between the stocks for each hectare of ground as well as several small trees on the appropriate boundaries with a NE-NW orientation. The distance to the nearest tree should not be more than 50m from any point of the vineyard. Possible losses in the harvest may be compensated by the harvest of fruits.
Structural Biodiversity
7. Ecological compensation areas rich in species of at least 2 x 20 m2 for every hectare
should be created as diversity hotspots both in the centre of the boundaries of the plots with stocks, where aromatic herbs and wild flowers grow (ruderal vegetation and flora, megaforbics). The distance to the nearest hotspot should not be more than 50m from any point of the vineyard.
8. Creation of structural elements such as stones and piles of woods for reptiles and insects. Installation of artificial nests for wild bees, insects and birds. The artificial nests may be integrated on the staking posts. Perches for birds of prey for a reduction of rodents. The pesticides used in the spraying must, therefore, be composed by harmless substances for bees and insects (renounce chemical pesticides and sulphur.)
Crop biodiversity
9. Cultivation of at least one secondary crop in the interstices of the main crop. This can be vegetables such as tomatoes or pumpkins, fruits such as raspberries or strawberries, a winter cereal such as rye and barley or aromatic herbs, planted or sown between the rows of vines. Also suitable are fruit bushes like chokeberry, sea buckthorn or sloe planted in lines between the vines, as are rows of fruit trees (vineyard peach, plum, almond, quince, etc.). Secondary crops also include bees, sheep, chickens, fish and other small farm animals. The areas earmarked for secondary crops must be large enough to ensure a proper economic return.
Genetic Diversity
10. Instead of grubbing the old vineyards and planting the surface again from scratch, the old stocks are replaced one for the other, choosing the plants by means of massale selection in the same vineyard and planting them as graft in the corresponding nurseries, therefore achieving a selection of varieties of multiple generations which adapt perfectly to the Terroir. The genetic diversity obtained reduces the pressure of infection due to plagues, increases the hardiness before the dominant environmental conditions, and improves the quality of the wine.


2 Responses to ' The Delinat Institute’s Charter For Vineyard Biodiversity '

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  1. Emma Hale said,

    on May 11th, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Hi There, as a Bsc Landscape management student (Hadlow College, Kent) about to embark on my final year, I am looking for a dissertation subject. Have read with interest the Charter For Vineyard Biodiversity and was wondering if any English vineyards (particularly in Kent) have shown interest in the charter and whether it could present me with a possible project to research. Regards, Emma Hale

  2. Admin, Ken Payton said,

    on May 11th, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Hi, Emma. I suggest you contact the Institute itself. They may well know of work in English vineyards centering on the Charter. However, in light of the progressive traditions of English gardening, it would not surprise me that Delinat could enter into a productive dialogue.

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