America's leading organically farmed wine, Bonterra Organic Vineyards ("Bonterra") continues its legacy of pioneering green viticulture with completion of a landmark soil study highlighting the benefits of organic and Biodynamic farming on soil health. Conducted by Pacific Agroecology on behalf of Bonterra, the study analyzed all of Bonterra's approximately 1,000 acres of Mendocino County vineyards, with results showing that Biodynamic sites hold the most soil organic carbon, followed closely by organic sites; both are superior in storing carbon to conventional farming. The soil study is the first research step in Bonterra's long-term commitment to understand, practice and promote the important topic of soil-carbon stewardship, and is in keeping with Bonterra's mission to champion regenerative agriculture as an important element in the global effort to address climate change.
Organic and biodynamic vineyards store 9-12 percent more organic carbon
Data from the 2017-2018 soil study, which measure density of soil organic carbon (SOC), indicate that Bonterra's vineyards farmed with Biodynamic and organic farming methods correlate with 12.8 percent and 9.4 percent greater SOC levels, respectively, than those found in a similar vineyard site farmed conventionally. The research took place over 12 months on 13 vineyards (nine organic, three Biodynamic, and one conventional) across Mendocino County, and included more than 500 grapevine biomass samples and more than 100 soil samples from vines planted between 1987 and 2015. The same study reviewed soil and above-ground carbon stores in Bonterra's undeveloped wildlands, demonstrating that total carbon storage in wildlands remains higher than in production lands, indicating that continued conservation efforts are also beneficial.
The impact of organic carbon stored in soil
"Soil organic carbon—something regenerative farming strives to enhance—is a signal of how well a landscape captures and stores carbon, and also contributes many long-term benefits to soil health, such as improved aeration, drought resistance, and erosion prevention," said Joseph Brinkley, director of vineyards for Bonterra. Bonterra strives to enhance soil health on its Mendocino farms through a coordinated mix of regenerative practices, including applying compost, planting cover crops, planned sheep grazing, reduced tillage regimes, enhanced insect and wildlife programs, and conservation of nearly 50 percent of its land in a natural state.
A 2017 report by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations entitled "Soil Organic Carbon: The Hidden Potential" states: "As an indicator for soil health, [soil organic carbon] is important for its contributions to food production, mitigation and adaptation to climate change." Elizabeth Drake, regenerative development manager for Bonterra Organic Vineyards, noted of Bonterra's recently completed study, "The results of this study provide early indication that regenerative farming practices lead to healthier, more productive soils, while contributing to the mitigation of climate change by holding more carbon underground."
Bonterra's Long-Term Commitment to Healthy Soil
Recently celebrating 30 years of organic farming, Bonterra remains passionate about building on its history of regenerative agriculture, and the soil study is the first research step in the winery's long-term commitment to understand, practice and promote the important topic of soil-carbon stewardship. Bonterra recently initiated a third-party peer-review process for the study so that its results may be further verified, and is also examining methods to conduct additional soil sampling to analyze vineyard carbon storage and carbon fluxes over longer periods. These efforts underscore a deeply rooted belief at Bonterra that regenerative farming practices offer compelling solutions for healthy soils, improved vine and grape quality, and a positive path forward for farming.
"We're excited about the potential impact of this study, which we hope inspires other farmers to examine the benefits of organic and Biodynamic agriculture," said Drake.