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Organic farming in Gagliole

 

Viticulture Today

In a climate increasingly affected by seasonal irregularities, constantly increasing average air temperatures, unbalanced rainfall patterns, farming while maintaining high quality standards is very difficult indeed.

With specific reference to viticulture, where a multi-year, annual cycle plant such as the vine is grown, it is essential to be aware of its sensitivity to abiotic (climatic) and biotic factors (fungal diseases and insect infestation).

The successful completion of the vegetative and productive cycle of vine plants, with good results, is therefore not a foregone conclusion.

So it is essential to change the approach and start cultivating the plants following the principles and fundamentals of eco-sustainable agriculture.

To change the approach, there must be a holistic view of the agro-ecological system by trying to understand its enormous complexity. A weapon that the winegrower has ,if it can be called this, is to increase the “flexibility” and ability to adapt the vine and plants in general to abiotic and biotic changes.

As is well known, plants grow, flower, fruit and die in the place where they are born, thus developing greater adaptability and resilience, even when the environment around them makes survival difficult.

Thanks to their ability to resist and react to adversity, plants can colonise their native environments.

 

The root network

One factor in the resilience and adaptation of the plants that the farmer can take advantage of is their ability to communicate with each other via their roots, which also enables them to interact with fungi, microorganisms and insects.

From this point of view, the vineyard becomes a single system where different species of plants and individuals develop a complex network, interact with each other and build defence systems against both natural and artificial external agents.

Consequently, the soil is no longer a simple substrate of colloids and nutrients whose purpose is to anchor the plant roots, but represents a living and extremely complex system in which not only chemical and physical interactions take place, but also biological reactions.

 

Cultivating the invisible

Based on the concepts of agroecology Gagliole has for several years embraced a vision of new and modern agricultural methods, cultivating not only vine plants but also microorganisms that live in the soil – the “invisible”.

We have therefore put in place a whole range of agricultural practices aimed at revitalising the soil and increasing and improving its microbiological activity.

Since 2016 Gagliole has embarked on the ethical path of conversion to organic farming, which has made our vineyard increasingly sustainable towards the environment that surrounds it. In 2019 Gagliole obtained organic agricultural certification, which is used today for the production of wines.

To Gagliole, organic farming doesn´t only mean the abolition of chemicals to protect the vineyards – over the years we have worked to create an agricultural system to improve the soil’s fertility, limit the impact of man on the environment and enhance the territories where our vineyards are cultivated.

We work with dedication and passion to intensify the microbial activity of our soil every day while at the same time strengthening the resilience and resistance of our crops.

 

Development of soil life, a marriage between roots and microorganisms

In addition to the practice of green manure in the vineyard, which over time has enabled us to enrich the top layers of the soil with organic matter, since 2016 we have also been enriching the medium layers of soil by injecting it with micro-organisms in micro-granular form.

This soil injection is carried out at a depth of 40 cm, in the area of soil where the vineroots develops the most.

The technique has helped us to develop a natural symbiotic process over time. This enables the plants to increase their capacity to absorb water by exploiting the fungal hyphae to extend their life cycle, thanks to the photosynthetic activity of the green parts of the vines.

To keep this important symbiosis intact, we must strive to keep our soil in excellent health so that the beautiful bond that we have created between the roots and the fungal hyphae becomes more and more stable.

The soil injection we carried out at Gagliole in spring 2016, was the first step in a long and fascinating new journey; every year we carry out other micro-injections that are useful to safeguard the population of these precious “friends”.

The eco symbiotic practices described above have enabled us to achieve the following objectives:

  1. improvement of physiological activities in the vineyard;
  2. reduction of water stress during periods of drought and high summer temperatures;
  3. improvement of the crucial stages of grape ripening;
  4. greater presence of mineral elements in our grapes, which will enhance the structure and quality of our wines;
  5. increased resistance of the vine to dangerous pathogens;
  6. reduction in the use of agro-pharmaceuticals, such as copper, which in the long term can cause toxic effects in the soil by hindering the microbiological activity of good fungi.

 

Insects in the vineyard

 

Just as important is the approach to the management of harmful vineyard insects. The total abolition of harmful chemical insecticides proved to be the best weapon for combating these unwanted guests.

Predatory insects and pests are used to fight some harmful insects, such as red spider mites and scale insects, Red spider mite attacks on vine leaves, particularly those for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, have been limited and almost completely eliminated as a result of the introduction of specific predatory mites called Phytoseids into the vineyard. Thanks to the Anagirus, a particular insect that parasites the vine mealybugs,  we have eradicated almost all the scale insects that have attacked our vineyard.

Following the abolition of the use of chemicals in vineyard management, we have been able to rediscover an ancient and essential agronomic practice, the tasting of the grapes in the vineyard before harvesting. This is fundamental and not only helps us understand when the best time to harvest is, but also allows us to taste the fruit of the well-thought-out and natural work that over time will allow us to improve the territorial and cultural aspect of our wines even more.

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