A review of Biodynamic and Organic viticulture (Giesco minutes)

Organic viticulture

In this blog we discuss an overview of the different comparative studies involving biodynamic vs organic vs. conventional  farming. Results presented by Dr. Stoll focus on what we have learnt from multiple studies comparing 3 different farming practices: Organic, Biodynamic and Conventional?

Earlier results were discussed here in our Wine quality and vineyard sustainability article as well as in our Giesco article from last year.

Why is it important to characterize practices effects on growth, fruit and wine quality?

Authors have reported that less than 5% of total grape growing area is organic. However, the demand is exponentially increasing. As such it is critical to understand the effect of non “conventional” practices on plant performance and wine composition. Results from such studies should have a profound impact on future vineyard practices and may guide new decisions.

Farming  strategy effect on plant performance

Both Organic and Biodynamic conditions increase biodiversity and microbial community. As a consequence,  floor and cover crop management practices lead to:

1)   Reduced pruning weight (on average -21%)

2)   Reduced  yield  (on average -18%) related to decreased berry weight.

Results are based of several long term studies as reported by Collins et al., 2015 ; Meissner et al, 2015, Doring et al, 2015).

Farming  strategy effect on fruit ripening  

Leaf area to fruit weight ratio is the  driving force to accumulate sugars. Since leaf area and fruit weight are both reduced under Organic and Biodynamic treatments, no significant differences are observed in sugar concentration. Furthermore, no difference in photosynthetic activity have been reported, particularly during the period of sugar accumulation.

Farming  strategy effect on wine

Organic and Biodynamic wines are perceived as more complex aromatically.

Results from many blind wine tastings report Organic and Biodynamic wines also as “more full bodied” , “ displaying “stronger minerality and more length” or more rich, more complex, with more texture (Collins et al, 2015; Meissner, 2015).

Take home:

Transitioning from conventional to Organic and Biodynamic farming will reduce vine growth and yield by a one fifth by reducing soil moisture.

Adoption of Organic and Biodynamic farming should not modify sugar concentration. However a greater appreciation of wine quality is expected and may compensate for yield reduction.

NOTE 1 : a recent paper discussing effects on grape juice quality resulting from the conversion of vineyard from “conventional” to organic and biodynamic management  can be accessed here

NOTE 2:  a blog on biodynamics can be accessed here

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