Castello di Tassarolo azienda vitivinicola

Biodynamic grape

Pharmacists or farmers?
"Chemical" grapes or organic (=bio) and biodynamic grapes: the mystery of the difference

'Chemical' vineyard, 10 May 2012 Our biodynamic vineyard, 12 May 2012 The striped  Spring  in the 'chemical' vineyards - 25 April 2013 The striped  Spring  in the 'chemical' vineyards - 25 April 2013 The "chemical" vineyards (or so called "conventional")

The grapes of a wine that is not certified organic come from "chemical" vineyards (so called "conventional"). Consumers often are not aware of how "chemical" vineyards are worked and treated. In fact it is very difficult to understand it till one starts working in a "chemical" vineyard. 99% of the vineyards worldwide are of this kind.

From April till the harvest, in Autumn, systemic pesticides (1) sold by big pharmaceutical multinationals are sprayed by tractors or by helicopters.

It starts in Spring, a season where the countryside is beautiful and full of buds, after the long lethargic winter, with spraying of desiccant (2) on the soil all around the vines. Those who cannot tolerate grass altogether spray also a wide space around the perimeter of the vineyard, being totally unaware of the pollution and poisoning of the water sources caused by this chemical. In fact it is very unlikely not to find it in drinkable water.

In spring, often, we can see the result of the desiccantwhen we notice dry yellowish grass on the edges of asphalt roads, in gardens, around rice fields, golf courses, etc. etc. In fact Spring grass is of an intense light green.

Walking about the vineyards in Spring you will find the ground strangely striped by dried grass lines under the vines. It is the first treatment of desiccant. One hopes that the right dose was followed (some people do not even read the label) and that it was sprayed with special suits and masks because it is very poisonous for plants, animals and human beings. The treatment is repeated a second time, once the vines are bigger.

In May they start the first heavy systemic treatments on the first vines leaves. There are many kinds, all toxic for human beings, soil and animals: some of them are so toxic that they cannot even be sprayed without an official license (unfortunately there is no control at all and very few respect the rules).

These chemicals follow the flowering, the just born grapes and its growth. The pharmaceutical industries caution not to work in the vineyards for few days after the spraying of these products but nevertheless all the workers work with bear hands and without masks.

At the beginning of August this methodic poisoningof the vines endsand they start thinking about the next one: anti-mould.It is a treatment that prevents the grapes from mould before the harvest. It must be sprayed no later than 30 days before the harvest to avoid contamination of the grapes. But again there is not control of any sort.

In the must, first and after in the wine are present all the residual chemicals of the past months that stay on the skin and deep inside the grapes, which are pressed without any washing. In fact it is very advisable not to eat grapes during the harvest. It could be health threatening.

After the harvest they start using another chemical product that is sprayed copiously on the ground: the chemical fertilizer that besides pumping up the vines with pure azote, develops overgrowth of weeds that in Spring are burned with desiccant.

This way the vine cycle ends. It is a circle that everyday poisons the soil, air, water,nature, animals and human beings. Bees, for example, which are essential for the reproduction of flowers, fruit, vegetables and trees are at risk of extinction because of use of chemicals and industrialization in agriculture. In Summer 2008 a helicopter hired by some wineries sprayed a very toxic pesticide only allowed to be used with the tractor and a special license. Millions of bees died.

The "chemical" agriculture encourages the imbalance of the plant, to the contrary of the biodynamic one which encourages its natural equilibrium: it is given a lot of fertilizer and the weeds overgrow so that one must usedesiccant. Often, when there are too many grapes on the vines, that may affect overall quality, a "green harvest"(3) is carried out. In the chemical vineyards the equilibrium of the plant is broken and causes a chain effects of imbalance for which man must keep intervening.

The organic (=Bio) and biodynamic vineyards

Spring comes here too with its vital vegetation but in this kind of agriculture it is forbidden to use desiccant. To control weed growth it is carried out a cutting or ploughing underneath the vine rows.

Against the vine diseases are allowed only two treatments: pure sulphur from the mine and copper mixed with lime, like all farmers used about 50 years ago.

The quantity is limited and controlled and one must respect the doses. In fact controlling bodies can go to the vineyards unexpectedly and test the leaves. If they find traces of not permitted treatments the organic or biodynamic certification is taken away.

Sulphur and copper are not systemic, but they are washed away by rain and wind. Treatment ends at the end of July and then the vineyards are left untouched till the harvest.

In biodynamic viticulture it is possible to treat the vineyards with biodynamic preparations too: Cow Horn Manure or Preparation 500, Cow Horn Silica or Preparation 501, Nettle's or Equisetum's decoction which are absolutely natural.

In Autumn, to feed the soil, one can use manure from organic sources or green manure. Green manureis a mix of legumes that are planted in between vines rows. They grow to about one meter and in May-June are cut and buried into the ground.

Green manure supplies natural azote to the vines and the long root of the legumes herbs make the soil soft and able to breath; as Alex Podolinsky says, oxygen is the most important element of the ground.

In this kind of viticulture one tries to understand nature and live in harmony with it, not subduing it. The final aim is to reach the natural balance of the plant and not its overproduction and exploitation. There is sacred respect of the earth from which life comes. Doing so one protects the environment, human beings and animals, groundwaterand air.

What are we going to leave to the future generations if we keep polluting the soil, poisoning ourselves?

Comparing vineyards in Spring

Some thoughts about an upside down world

If we think about our system which classifies agriculture and its products, it appears a bizarre non sense. They require organic certification - with waste of time and money - the products cultivated with really "conventional" methods, used for centuries, so they can display the organic certification on the label.

Instead it defines "conventional" the agriculture that uses poisons never used before 60 years ago, without the need for any license to handle them. The products of this kind of agriculture we find everyday on shops' and supermarkets' shelves without a label saying "From chemical and polluting agriculture". It may be a semantic non sense which reflects a confusion of real values, characteristic of our upside down world today.


(1) Systemic pesticides: they cannot be wiped away by the rain or wind, but penetrate deeply into the plant and later into the grapes.

(2) Desiccant: is not selective and systemic. It dries up every plant that it touches, without being carried around in the lymphatic system. For this reason it is used also for the pinching out on vines and hazel trees.
The weed killer (or herbicide) instead can be selective (used for specific crop only) or total (for all the crops).It is systemic and therefore penetrates the tissues and is curried from one organ to the other, killing the whole plant.

(3) Green harvest: is carried out in July-August in the vineyards with excess of grape production. To improve the quality of the grapes some bunches are cut out to reestablish a naturally balanced quantity and quality.

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