Pesticide and Fertilizer Use

Pesticides and fertilizers use

You probably already know: traditional agriculture uses a large amount of fertilizers and pesticides. This is mainly due to the quest to maximize crop yields and protect crop heath. The problem with this is that a key aspect is often not taken into account: the use of such products progressively generates damage to the environment that can be irreparable.

Now, how many pesticides and fertilizers are used in traditional viticulture?  

  • Let's start by talking about pesticides: in Europe alone, 480000 tons of pesticides were used during 2019. But this is not the only alarming data: during 2020, in Switzerland more than 100 tons of fungicides and pesticides were used, resulting in 15 of the types of wines tested in the main regions of that country containing at least 5 types of pesticides.This reflects the indiscriminate use of pesticides, which still continues, resulting in very serious consequences:
  • One of the main consequences is the poisoning of people who consume the products with pesticides. In fact, around 385 million cases of pesticide poisoning occur each year around the world. And, although so far there has not been any recorded level of pesticide residues in wines that are toxic to consumers, it is still necessary to regulate their use in order to reduce this level.
pesticide poisoning
  • But undoubtedly, another of the most serious consequences of the indiscriminate use of pesticides is contamination. This is due to the fact that the active ingredients of pesticides not only act on the vine, but also on the soil and water reserves that may be found in the subsoil. This can mean that, for example, a pesticide sprayed on a vineyard can end up affecting cities more than 100 km away. Moreover, by penetrating the soil, pesticides accelerate soil erosion and reduce its useful life.

  • Another chemical product that is widely used in viticulture is fertilizer. These allow winegrowers to maximize yields in their crops. For that reason, the numbers associated with fertilizers are often high. For example, in 2019, the 3 countries that consumed the most fertilizer were China, with 45.4 million tons, India, with 29.37 million tons, and the United States, with 20.36 million tons.
countries that consumed more fertilizer

But fertilizers also have a negative impact if they are not used properly. Some of the damages it can produce in the environment are:

  • The development of microorganisms in groundwater, which decreases the quality of the water.
  • In addition, an excessive application of nitrogen fertilizers causes an excessive presence of this component, which not only has an effect on the vines but can also reach the water.  
  • Finally, the intensive use of chemical fertilizers is responsible for much of the GHG emissions during the grapevine production stage. This is mainly due to the process of environmental runoff.

Now, how can wineries reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used? One of the most commonly used strategies is what is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  A good IPM strategy will not only reduce the amount of chemicals used in the vineyard, thus generating a benefit for the planet, but also allow winemakers to prevent pests and diseases from affecting the vines in a natural way.

So, from now on, every time you want to buy a new wine you can be sure to learn more about the winery. That way, you will be able to know if they use organic or biodynamic practices, which allow them to reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides. This way, you can give them your support and make a great contribution to take care of the planet's natural resources!