ORGANIC PROSECCO BLOG: let’s stop using pesticides by increasing the number of insects in vineyard
It is perhaps paradoxical, but did you know that by increasing the variety of insects in the vineyard we are able to grow organic grapes without the use of pesticides?
By doing so, we help spreading biodiversity, avoid contamination of ground water and offer you a 100% pesticide-free organic Prosecco.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the variety of plants and animals that you can find in a habitat.
The relationships among them helps developing a sort of ecological balance. All living beings benefit from this equilibrium, including humans.
So, in other words, biodiversity is something you are not aware of if it works, but that can create small and big troubles if it doesn’t.
For example, here in Northern Italy, the place where we produce our Organic Prosecco, mosquitos are increasing due to the decline of swallow population (a single swallow can eat up to 2,000 mosquitos in a day).
Maybe you are thinking: “That’s it? This is not a big deal, I don’t even live in an area with mosquitos”.
What about if I tell you that around 80% of the food we eat every day exists only because of pollinating insects and that their number has been reducing since 1961 and now the 50% of them are in danger of extinction?
Now you get it. Biodiversity loss is not just a frog or bird specie disappearing in some jungle far away, is something that could hit everyone, everywhere.
Needless to say, we humans are solely responsible for this: industrial pollution and unsustainable agricultural practices that are gradually erasing animals’ habitats do not belong to nature.
Biodiversity in an organic Prosecco vineyard? Yes we can!
Nature teaches us that ecosystems with high levels of biodiversity can reach a sort of balance and that only human beings may disrupt it.
If the vine-grower thinks of the vineyard just as a kind of grape factory, he will always use pesticides to control damaging insects in order to maximize production.
However, year after year, this will reduce the number of good insects, increasing the risk of vine pests spreading. This situation can lead farmers to a real pesticide dependence.
On the other side, the organic vine-grower has to develop a self-balanced ecosystem in the vineyard, where good insects and pests interaction keeps the number of damaging insects under control.
This is what is called functional biodiversity.
I am working hard to increase the number of good insects in the organic Prosecco vineyard, by using only alternative pest control methods (such as sexual confusion) or by planting flowering plants between the planting rows.
Flowering plants are particularly useful, because pests’ natural enemies (good insects) need a lot of protein in adulthood and they can find it in pollen.
Testing biodiversity level in the vineyard in collaboration with Padua University
To sum up:
Many flowers in the vineyard = lot of pollen = many good insects = few pests
In order to better understand whether the formula above is scientifically correct we are collaborating with Giulia Zanettin, PhD entomologist of Padua University, under the supervision of Prof Carlo Duso.
Her research, based on the capture and identification of the insects, will clarify whether or not our organic methods are increasing the level of biodiversity in the vineyard.
A second aspect of her research is focused on the advantages of planting buckwheat (long blooming plant) between the rows.
This experiment will end in 2018 and we are feverishly waiting for the results. However, deep inside I feel that we are following the right path and I think that the enormous amount of birds and insects that I meet every day in the vineyard is a good sign.
As usual, I hope that many farmers will follow our lead in the next years. Who knows? Maybe someday we will enjoy a glass of Organic Prosecco in summer evenings without mosquitos bothering us even here, in the Veneto region.