A trend is being seen where growers are shifting towards organic and biodynamic viticulture. The primary reason for the shift is to improve the fruit quality and reduce the impact of conventional viticulture to the environment
A six-year field trial was conducted on a 20-year-old, 10ha Cabernet Sauvignon vines in McLaren Vale of South Australia. The aim of the study was to find out the benefits and drawbacks of Organic and biodynamic practices over Conventional viticulture. Below mentioned are the observations found during the trial-
- There was a marked improvement in the biological properties such as biomass, earthworm numbers, etc. of the soil with Organic and Biodynamic viticulture which was not observed with the use of herbicides in conventional methods. The use of compost led to the increase in total organic carbon, pH and electrical conductivity levels in the soil whereas vines under conventional viticulture showed higher concentrations of Phosphorous, Sulphur and Boron levels
- The vines under Organic and Biodynamic practices showed reduced yield. The percentage of Organic, Bio-dynamic and LCON (Low-input conventional) yields were 79%, 70%, and 91% respectively in comparison to HCON (High-input conventional). The difference was not only in the yield but also in the alcohol levels. A Higher level of alcohol, anthocyanin (the ingredient which imparts color to the red wine) and phenolic levels (primarily responsible for the look and feel of the wine) were noticed in vines under HCON viticulture.
- Blind tasting of the wines under the different management treatments was also done with panel members describing Organic and Biodynamic wines to be more rich, complex, textural and vibrant in comparison to vines grown with HCON and LCON means.
- Though not as high financially beneficial as HCON system, it was found that ORG, BD, and LCON systems produced 74%, 65% and 91% financial return per hectare respectively of the HCON system.
Overall, Organic and Biodynamic viticulture were found to be beneficial for the soil and the environment and more sustainable form of viticulture but talking in monetary terms the returns were high in HCON system.