What are the best practice to manage compost in viticulture?
Compost management is essential to maintain a sustainable production method. Not only does it provide essential nutrients for the vines, but it also helps to extend the life of the soil.
Source Separation: Separate organic waste, such as grape pomace, prunings, and winery byproducts, from other waste streams to create a clean and high-quality compost feedstock.
Composting System Design: Choose an appropriate composting system, such as windrows, static piles, or aerated bins, that suits the scale and needs of the winery, ensuring proper aeration and decomposition.
Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio: Maintain the ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N) of around 25-30:1 in the compost mix to promote efficient decomposition and nutrient retention.
Shredding and Particle Size: Shred or chop larger organic materials to increase the surface area, which speeds up decomposition and ensures even breakdown.
Moisture Management: Monitor and regulate moisture levels in the compost pile to keep it moist but not waterlogged, as excessive water can hinder aeration and promote anaerobic conditions.
Aeration and Turning: Regularly turn or aerate the compost to provide oxygen to the microorganisms, aiding in the decomposition process and preventing foul odors.
Temperature Monitoring: Monitor compost temperatures to ensure they reach the required levels for pathogen destruction and optimal decomposition.
Compost Pile Size: Consider pile size and volume to ensure efficient composting, as larger piles tend to generate and retain heat better.
Compost Pile Insulation: Insulate compost piles in colder climates to maintain the necessary temperature for microbial activity.
Proper Curing: Allow the finished compost to cure for an appropriate period to stabilize nutrients and prevent potential phytotoxicity when used as a soil amendment.
Quality Testing: Conduct regular compost quality testing to ensure it meets desired nutrient levels and is free from contaminants.
On-Site Utilization: Utilize the compost on-site as a soil conditioner or amendment in the vineyard, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and closing the waste loop.
By implementing these best practices, wineries can effectively manage compost and convert organic waste into a valuable resource, promoting sustainability and environmental stewardship within the wine industry.
What are the benefits of compost management?
Consider this: in wine production, 80% of each grape is used. This means that 20% is transformed into waste that can be very polluting for the environment. Viticultural waste includes: stems, seeds and even skins. Well, all these components can make a great contribution of organic matter, essential for the vines to grow healthy and to give the soil a greater structure. Below, we will talk about all the benefits of implementing a good compost maangement strategy:
Provides nitrogen to the soil: nitrogen is an essential mineral for the development of vines. However, the natural nitrogen in the soil is usually around 2%. The remaining 98% comes from organic matter present in the soil that must be decomposed for plants to have access to nitrogen, and that is where compost comes into play. Organic compost not only provides a good amount of nitrogen in the short term, but also in the long term: 15% of the nitrogen will be available after one year, while another 15% may take 3 to 4 years.
Reducing herbicide use: herbicides can represent a great cost for the environment. This is because not only can they cause health problems for workers, but they can also cause an imbalance due to the death of benign plants. Well, organic compost helps reduce herbicide use, which was reflected in a study in Australia: some of the sites where compost was used saw a reduction in herbicide application to 1-2 per year. This meant a saving of $160/ha per application.
Increased water use efficiency: Another aspect in which composting helps a lot is the reduction of water waste. This is because, as compost improves soil structure, it can retain more water, and therefore it is not necessary to use as much water for irrigation. The same study we told you about earlier shows very promising results: during a period of drought, several vineyards, one of them in the Yarra Valley, recorded savings of up to 20% over the 400,000 liters of water per hectare used up to that time.
Now, while having a compost management strategy is a good initiative, it will always be more effective if it is part of a comprehensive plan that takes into account other aspects such as carbon footprint reduction.