The term sustainability is being used quite a lot these days in relation to the environment. Certainly, practicing sustainable agriculture is one area that can have a major, long-term impact on the environment; farming the land in order to minimize environmental impact will help to ensure that farming can continue into future generations.
At Manatawny Creek Winery, we are attempting to practice sustainable agriculture as much as possible. Instead of chemical fertilizers, we are solely fertilizing our vines with compost made from horse manure at our local horse farms and from grape skins, seeds and stems leftover from processing our grapes. Composting is an amazing way not only to add nutrients to the soil for the vines to use, but also to increase the level of beneficial microorganisms and the organic matter in the soil.
East coast viticulture is challenging compared to West coast viticulture in that, due to rainfall and humidity, we have many types of fungi to combat in the vineyard. Fortunately, less dangerous and more environmentally sound materials are being researched and developed all the time. For example, natural phosphorous acid products can now be used to fight downy mildew instead of more harsh compounds. We use pheromone ties and an insect growth regulator to interrupt mating of the grape berry moth, a severe pest, instead of conventional insecticides. Better canopy management practices, like opening up the fruiting zone, are being employed to increase air movement and decrease use of pesticides.
Weed growth in the vineyard, particularly underneath the vines, is always an issue. We have stopped using pre-emergent herbicides which can remain in the environment for long periods of time and are using only post-emergent herbicides which break down quickly. We are currently experimenting with various techniques to try and eliminate herbicides altogether.
We still have much work to do, but feel like we are headed in the right direction in our sustainable vineyard management practices.