More diversity in the vineyards

Is it the sowing between the vine rows? The shrub by the wayside? A change in the treatment of the green strips? "Many winegrowers would like to do more for biodiversity," is dr. Keith ulrich convinced. "But they don’t know what."The "ambito" project is intended to help develop a kind of handbook for more biodiversity in german vineyard landscapes. The sommerach winegrowers are on board.

Species and structural diversity in germany’s vineyards is often low. The sentence that the federal environment ministry and the federal office for nature conservation put at the beginning of their press release about their "ambito" project does not sound good. And yet it is hard reality. As in the agricultural landscape as a whole, biodiversity in viticulture is far from what it should – and could – be. The aim of "ambito" is to develop this potential, to combine theoretical research and practical application.

"We don’t think in terms of years, but in the long term. We think in generations." Frank dietrich, sommerach winery

The name "ambito" stands for "development and application of a modular biodiversity toolkit for viticulture in germany". The association for sustainable viticulture "fair and green e" has joined forces for this.V.", its chairman dr. Keith ulrich is, and geisenheim university joined forces, supported by the german winegrowers association. The federal office for nature conservation is supporting the project with funds from the federal ministry for the environment totaling around 4.4 million euros.

Projects for more biodiversity in vineyards are not new. The veitshochheim state institute for viticulture and horticulture is also committed to biodiversity. What according to dr. Keith ulrich of "fair and green" is missing, however, is a real overview of all regions in germany. Many winemakers didn’t know what they could do. There is a lack of information about measures that are specifically suited to their business and that are easy to implement.

The winzerkeller sommerach has been concerned with sustainability and species conservation for years and has a working group that deals with these issues. It’s not about a "short-term flower robbery for marketing," assures chairman frank dietrich. It is about taking a position. "We don’t think in terms of years, but in the long term. We think in generations."

A lot is being done for this, they have already "started a plethora of measures". Among other things, there has been a grant for species-rich and specially composed greening for the past two years. The cooperative has been a member of "fair and green" for a year now. In this way, the winegrowers commit themselves to continuous development, from farm management to value chains, resource conservation and ecology to social aspects – with the aim of keeping the environmental impact of their trade as low as possible and taking responsibility for people and nature.

All of this involves more effort and higher costs – but the vast majority of the cooperative’s members supported the decision. Two families did not want to go down this path and have therefore cancelled their membership, according to frank dietrich. But the others stand behind the decision. In 2019, the first vintage of the sommerach winegrowers was certified and is allowed to carry the "fair and green" seal for sustainable management.

Frank dietrich describes the "ambito" project as a "steep template" for the sommerach winegrowers. "If we get one of our member wineries involved, we’ll be closer to the research," they thought.

And in fact, martin munch, chairman of the sommerach winegrowers’ supervisory board, has been accepted as one of 30 model wineries in the 13 german winegrowing regions. Munch farms three hectares of vineyards as a sideline, and his family has belonged to the cooperative for generations. He tries to manage his vineyards as close to nature as possible, has been working without herbicides for four years, and is involved in greening management. This year he has converted his farm to organic production.

In the first phase of the six-year project, it is first of all a question of "zeroing in," explains dr. Keith ulrich. "The colleagues are at the farms and look at the situation."What is typical for each region? What is the situation – flat or steep?? What kind of soil is there? What has already been done and where there is a need for action? The "fair and green" employees have already taken a look around martin munch’s farm. "The next step is to look at what is currently available in terms of beneficial organisms and insects," says the sommerach resident.

"Fair and green" advises model farms on how to claim biodiversity, in vineyards, but also on farm fields or neighboring fields. Part-time winegrowers, in particular, often still have meadows or other flat areas that they cultivate, female frank dietrich. "These can be highly interesting sites for meadow orchards or special seedings."

As keith ulrich says, after the zero-take-up, the first mtakes will be planned and possibly already tackled this year. First, known m-measures are implemented and then adapted and optimized to the farms in the course of the project, for example, a common seed mixture is changed so that it fits the farm’s management and sustainably challenges the biodiversity on site.

"I believe that this will be a pioneering project in agriculture." Keith ulrich, chairman "fair and green

After that, there is always monitoring to see whether the mabnahmen are taking effect. This practical part in the model companies is being scientifically accompanied by the university of geisenheim. There are twelve experimental vineyards in the winegrowing regions of rheingau, rheinhessen and nahe. Among other things, practical solutions for conflicts of use are to be developed there, but it is also a question of how the demand for biodiversity can be used for marketing purposes.

All the findings obtained in the course of the six years of the "ambito" project will result in a catalog that can be used as a guide for all winegrowers. Keith ulrich: "i believe this will be a pioneering project in agriculture."