Sustainability in Viticulture - Agroforestry and Organic Wine Production in the Mosel Region, Germany
Since the mid-20th century, there has been an increasing industrialization and intensification of land use in the agricultural sector. This development is accompanied by increased productivity in thriving economies since World War II and the overall growth of the world population. In addition to pro...
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|Since the mid-20th century, there has been an increasing industrialization and intensification of land use in the agricultural sector. This development is accompanied by increased productivity in thriving economies since World War II and the overall growth of the world population. In addition to providing widespread food supply, the industrialization of the agricultural sector has also led to high resource consumption and lasting environmental damage. As a result, particularly since the 1980s and 1990s, there has been a growing societal awareness of the negative impacts of agriculture on the environment and resources.
In the wine-growing Mosel Region in Rhineland-Palatinate, which consists of vineyards along the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer rivers, a few winemakers began to seek alternatives to conventional industrial cultivation methods and pesticides in the early 1980s. They adapted their agricultural practices in favor of sustainability and increasingly organized themselves in growing eco-associations. These few winemakers became part of a growing community of sustainable winegrowers in Germany. Nowadays, sustainably produced wines constitute a rapidly growing share of the German and international wine market. The ecologically managed vineyard area in Germany has also expanded since then, although machines and pesticides continue to be used due to the vulnerability of grapes to diseases and pests. This poses a fundamental dilemma for the operations of eco-winemakers who are striving to adapt their viticulture practices, in addition to the impacts of climate change.
One of the practices playing a central role in the exploration of sustainability practices in this work is agroforestry. Agroforestry distinguishes between silvoarable and silvopastoral systems. Silvoarable systems combine trees or perennial plants and shrubs with crops. Silvopastoral systems combine trees and perennial plants and shrubs with animal husbandry. Agroforestry is a term coined in the 20th century, but its origins can be traced back to early forms of land use, beginning with Neolithic cultures about 10,000 years ago. Agroforestry practices such as grazing in orchards or planting hedges to protect crops have been maintained over centuries but have increasingly taken a back seat due to the intensification and mechanization of agriculture in the 20th century. The combination of trees with field crops or animals in agroforestry systems offers various synergistic effects, such as shading vineyards with trees planted in the rows of vines. This helps maintain soil moisture in dry spells and protects grapes from sunburn. Agroforestry systems also enable savings in labor and costs, as animal husbandry provides a continuous supply of dung and weed control through grazing. Given the changes in growing conditions due to climate change and societal demand for sustainable methods in food production, agroforestry is regaining importance and is being investigated as an innovative practice in this dissertation on sustainability development in viticulture. In addition to the application of agroforestry methods in viticulture, the use of fungus-resistant grape varieties (FRVs) is also addressed in this dissertation.
The selection of grape varieties for viticulture has historically focused primarily on the quantity and quality of plant material. However, due to climate change as well as pests and diseases, the grapevine is facing increasing pressure. Therefore, beginning in the 19th century, grape varieties with resistance to diseases were deliberately bred. Nowadays, FRVs are gaining attractiveness for both winemakers and consumers, as they allow for a substantial reduction in pesticide use, thereby reducing costs and labor. At the same time, the avoidance of harmful chemicals opens up the possibility of a sustainable use of animals in the vineyard. Agroforestry systems in conjunction with Piwis thus offer opportunities to make wine production sustainable and future-oriented, while also diversifying the product range of winemakers through new grape varieties and animal products.
This cumulative dissertation comprises three research articles based on qualitative interviews. Article 1 examined the use of agroforestry systems in viticulture and their potential to address the impacts of climate change on wine production and distribution. Planting rows of vines with trees led to more stable product quality during dry years, simultaneously resulting in reduced sunburn damage and soil erosion. However, based on their experiences, the interviewed winemakers favored a better-adapted agroforestry system that could also be part of value creation or combined with agro-photovoltaics. Article 2 investigated ecosystem services in silvopastorally managed vineyards, where animals grazed the vineyard, reducing weeds and significantly reducing labor. The silvopastoral vineyards increased biodiversity, wine quality, and enabled an expanded product portfolio. Article 3 dealt with alternative food networks and FRVs in sustainable viticulture. Alternative food networks aim to eliminate intermediaries in value chains and promote more direct interactions between producers and consumers. The article concludes that fungus-resistant grape varieties not only facilitate the management of vineyards but also the establishment of short value chains. The articles of this dissertation collectively demonstrate that agroforestry systems, FRVs, and alternative food networks offer opportunities for advancing sustainable viticulture.