Historically, grape vines were often part of mixed production systems resulting in multiple income streams. Farms produced crops other than just grapes, such as animal products, and/or lumber [1
], on farm areas whose biophysical conditions best suited their growth. They also had areas of vegetation, such as remnant forest, and riparian corridors, not directly related to production. However, more recently, many vineyard farms within industrialized countries removed this vegetation, and piped or channelized waterways, when these were viewed as impeding or reducing production. Furthermore, farms became specialized, only producing grapes and wine, with external inputs, such as fossil fuels, water, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides [2
] to offset limitations posed by imperfect growing conditions. Resulting vineyard landscapes are often biologically and visually homogenous [3
], with wine grape vines, and little other vegetation, apart from cellar door landscaped areas (Figure 1
Significant environmental impacts are associated with these designs, including water pollution [4
] soil loss [5
], soil pollution [6
], and significant carbon emissions [7
]. These designs have also led to losses in beneficial invertebrates [8
], soil biota [9
], and higher pest vulnerability [1
]. In addition, they provide low support for indigenous biodiversity [10
] and have low resilience to climate change, as ecosystems with low spatial and temporal variability have low adaptive capacity in face of disturbance [11
Internationally, wine grape systems are shifting to more sustainable production practices [12
]. Certified wine grape farmers may be helping to lead this shift [13
], as certified farmers within many agricultural systems often stimulate farming innovation among their more conventional peers [14
]. In part, this shift is being motivated by a desire to capture a growing market and price premiums for wines perceived as better for the environment [2
], wine quality [10
], and human health [16
]. The literature identifies two main greening strategies for improving sustainability of conventionally design farms: Efficiency/substitution farming and biodiversity-based farming [17
Efficiency/substitution farming strategies are most studied and are defined as those that seek to reduce impacts of concern to regulators by increasing input efficiencies and substituting components considered environmentally benign [17
]. Many winegrowers are focusing on reducing environmentally harmful and potentially noxious synthetic inputs, particularly organic and biodynamic certified farmers [18
]. In fact, organic certification practices in the United States, governed by the United States Department of Agriculture, focus on reducing or avoiding synthetic fertilizers and plant protection substances (e.g., pesticides and herbicides). Biodynamic certification, according to Demeter—USA [19
], not only requires the reduction of these inputs, but discourages all external inputs outside the farm boundary, including those organic. It seeks to preserve, enhance, and integrate resources across a vineyard farm in support of balanced ecosystem health. It recommends using non-synthetic concoctions to improve soil and microbial health, and timing farm activities based on the phase and zodiacal constellation of the moon.
While studies support many of these practices, there is uncertainty about some of their environmental benefits within vineyards [20
]. Supporting studies have demonstrated reductions in some externalities with their adoption, and improved microbial biomass and enzyme activity in soils, with the substitution of synthetic with organic fertilizers [21
]. Others have demonstrated soil structure improvements, and increased microbial activity and fertility, with the application of animal manure and plant extracts to soils [22
]. In addition, some have demonstrated reductions in carbon emissions with the substitution of motorized equipment with human labour [13
], and with the reduced and altered use of nitrogenous fertilizers [23
]. However, another study found no reduction in carbon emissions with the substitution of synthetic with organic fertilizers [7
]. Furthermore, this strategy does not address some impacts, such as poor support for indigenous biodiversity, and low system resilience to economic and environmental stochastic events or climate change [11
Fewer studies have examined the adoption of these strategies among growers. Studies suggest best practice is focused on reducing the use of harmful synthetic inputs; however, only a minority of growers in surveys had significantly reduced their use [24
]. Key motivators included concern for grower/worker health [24
], the presence of legislative policies requiring integrated pest management [24
], and grower beliefs in their benefits for improving soil quality and ecosystem health. One study found that, to be motivated to implement this strategy, growers needed to be able to effectively signal to consumers that their practices not only improved environmental health, but the quality of their wine [25
]. Barriers included grower disbelief in, or uncertainty about, the benefits of such practices (particularly with respect to pest control), environmental concerns about the use of copper (an organic substitute), and the financial risks associated with relying on alternatives to synthetic inputs [25
Biodiversity-based farming strategies are much less studied [17
]. They focus on not only mitigating environmental impacts of farming, but also on providing additional ecosystem services [17
]. They may involve the addition of other production systems, or the conservation and restoration of ecosystem service providers (ESPs) on farms, the latter of which are defined as “component populations, species, guilds, food webs or habitats that provide ecosystem services” [27
] (p. 469). As this research is concerned with the design and implementation of spatial aspects of ESPs within vineyards, we use the term green infrastructure (GI) when referring to them. The concept of GI is used in the fields of landscape architecture and landscape planning. It was first applied to urban landscapes and regions to highlight the essential role of vegetation and water-based natural, semi-natural, and artificial (ESP) networks in these landscapes for providing key ecosystem services in support of community health and well-being [28
]. In wine-grape production systems, we define GI as multi-spatial scaled networks of natural, semi-natural or human-constructed/planted areas of non-vine vegetation, water elements, and other structures (e.g., nesting boxes), that provide key ecosystem services to winegrowers, communities, and markets.
There is a significant amount of scientific research in support of some components of green infrastructure and some of their ecosystem services, within vineyards. Cover crop GI components have been the focus. Inter-row cover crops reduce erosion and enhance soil carbon [29
], and row cover crops can suppress weeds, retain moisture, enhance soil microbial activity [30
], and can alter soil fertility [31
]. Furthermore, inter-row crops, and particularly, vegetated buffer strips between vineyard blocks and waterways, can mitigate nitrate pollutants within surface and groundwater [32
]. In addition, pest regulation services can be provided by row cover crops [30
], inter-row cover crops [33
], and semi-natural non-vine vegetation in and around vineyards, such as woodlands, hedgerows, grasslands, and shrubs [34
]. However, other studies have also demonstrated cover crops can provide habitat for pests [36
]. The amount and diversity of these types of GI (in addition to others, such as tree rows, individual trees, road and field margins, and farm buildings) both at local and landscape scales, can increase species richness and abundance [10
]. Other production systems, such as vegetable crops, and residential gardens can also contribute heterogeneity, and therefore habitat diversity, to these landscapes [10
]. While increasing heterogeneity in vineyard landscapes can also increase resilience to, or reduce the risk of, environmental disturbances, such as pest outbreaks, the transmission of pathogens, and buffering variations in climate [11
], few studies have explored these relationships within vineyard landscapes.
There are few studies regarding effective spatial designs of biodiversity strategies within vineyards. Studies within the field of landscape architecture have primarily focused on evaluating designs that conserve and enhance spatial designs in support of their cultural services, such as those enhancing their aesthetic experiences, and cultural heritage [38
]. Other fields, such as conservation biology, have focused on identifying relationships between production systems and semi-natural vegetation that increase biodiversity in homogenous agricultural landscapes. Spatial strategies identified as sparing and sharing have been debated. In a sparing strategy, farmers concentrate land for nature conservation, leaving their remaining land for intensive production [39
]. Proponents of this strategy often view nature and agricultural as incompatible, with nature conservation areas not contributing to agricultural production. They also argue that concentrating nature conservation leads larger areas, that are known to often support more species with larger populations than smaller areas [40
]. However, externalities associated with the remaining productive land often continues unabated as it has no or little GI to provide mitigation.
A sharing strategy, on the other hand, incorporates smaller and more areas of GI into production systems, and can lead to more extensive production with fewer local environmental externalities [39
]. Supporters of this strategy argue this GI can be designed to provide more ecosystem services than just enhanced biodiversity, such as those benefiting production (e.g., pest regulation or microclimate mitigation). Here, proponents view nature and agriculture as complementary. However, the smaller GI components may support fewer species with smaller populations more vulnerable to extirpation with an environmental stochastic event [41
]. These two strategies are not mutually exclusive and can be implemented at different spatial scales within the same landscape [42
There is less research on winegrower implementation of GI, or additional production systems. In terms of GI, cover crops, and their contribution to soil quality, have been the focus of studies. Few other types have been studied, or the multiple ecosystem services they provide vineyards [43
]. Studies in Italy, Spain, and New Zealand indicate poor uptake of cover crops among growers [24
]. In an Italian study, the adoption of grassed cover crops (the only GI mentioned by growers), was a low priority relative to efficiency/substitution practices, such as reducing synthetic pesticide use [24
]. The key enabler for implementing cover crops in this study was a grower desire to improve soil quality. However, the study in Spain [44
], which indicated similarly poor uptake, found that few growers were willing to implement cover crops which would reduce soil erosion, due to concern that cover crops would compete with vines for water, lack of knowledge regarding effective cover crops, and unwillingness to accept production decreases thought to be associated with cover crop adoption. The New Zealand study [45
], focused on inter-row cover crops designed to provide beneficial insect management of vine pests, vine row weed suppression using indigenous plants, and hedgerows for microclimate control (particularly winds). The study found a similarly low rate of adoption among growers. The key barriers appeared to be uncertainty regarding their benefits, and the increased costs associated with their implementation and management. However, other studies conducted in France, and one in Spain, indicated most winegrowers implemented cover crops [46
]. Growers implemented a variety of spatial strategies (e.g., both inter and row, row only, inter-row only, and a variety of patterns of cover crops alternating with bare soil), and management strategies (e.g., use of tillage, herbicides, rolling or mowing cover crops at different frequencies and times of the year). Higher coverage of cover crops within vineyards was correlated with higher wine quality (e.g., Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) wines in Europe), and certified organic wines, in addition to independent wineries with lower yields [47
]. The New Zealand study also looked at the implementation of restored native vegetation in and around vineyard farms. Growers believed it provided habitat for indigenous species, but no other production or sales-related benefits. Implementation may have been enabled by partial external public and private company funding which reduced implementation costs for growers [45
In this study we use long interviews with certified growers in the Willamette valley, Oregon to investigate their implementation of biodiversity farming strategies, involving incorporation of GI and additional production systems on their farms. Certified farmers are often leaders in advancing farming innovation among their more conventional peers [14
]. We determined which GI types and production systems winegrowers were implementing and where. We also explored what ecosystem services and functions growers believed they provided, and whether and how they managed them. Furthermore, we identified enablers and barriers to their implementation. While the GI and other production systems identified in this study reflect the biophysical, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions of this wine region, and may not be appropriate for all wine regions, vineyards from other regions can learn from, and be inspired by, the grower perspectives, experiences and biodiversity designs uncovered in this study. Furthermore, the results of this study can assist scientists to identify future GI research which increase enablers and overcome barriers to winegrower biodiversity strategy implementation.
The study is based on a single case of specific and immediate interest as a revelatory case and does not seek generalization [48
]. Vineyard farm system innovators in implementing biodiversity strategies, in the Willamette valley wine region in Oregon, United States (Figure 2
), were targeted for interviews.
This is Oregon’s leading wine region, renowned for its pinot noir wines. The region has a temperate warm to cool, often dry, summer, and wet winter climate (Csb type according to the Koppen climate classification system). Vineyards are mostly located on the lower hillsides of the Coast Range Mountains to the west and Cascade Range Mountains to the east, and not in the alluvial plain soils of the Willamette River. The hillsides were at one time characterized by oak savanna community (open woodlands characterised by Oregon white oak (Quercus breweri
, Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa
) and prairie, supporting more than 200 species of wildlife [49
]. However, less than one percent of the oak savanna remains, and is highly fragmented. Some of that remaining is being replaced by dense forests of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii
), Grand fir (Abies grandis
), and Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum
). This is largely due to agricultural and urban development, lack of management, fire suppression, and lack of market for Oak savanna products [49
]. Many of the hillsides where vineyards are located are steep, and soil cultivation has made soil erosion and degradation of surface water quality issues of concern [50
Innovative growers were identified by the Low Impact Viticulture and Enology certified organization (LIVE) [51
], which is not for profit, and was developed in 1997 by Willamette valley vineyard owners. It is third party verified by the International organization for the biological and integrated control of noxious animals and plants (IOBC). Certification requires vineyard farms and wineries to implement the most recent science-based best practices in support of quality fruit and wine production, sustained economic viability, minimum impacts of artificial system inputs, biological diversity, and soil fertility and stability [51
]. This certification programme claims to determine best practices based on local biophysical conditions of their growers, rather than on the universal conditions [51
]. This contrast with Organic certification, a national programme regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Demeter biodynamic certification which is an international programme. Policies specific to the design of GI within LIVE’s programme include a minimum of five percent of land “set aside” for nature conservation, whereas Demeter biodynamic requires a ten percent “set aside” [19
]. Organic certification in the U.S. does not have any set aside requirements. In addition, both LIVE and Demeter biodynamic certifiers claim their practices should be applied to the whole vineyard farm, rather than just vineyard block components [19
]. Organic certification does not specify where their practices apply on farms.
Vineyards were selected purposely, using a diverse case sampling method. This method is appropriate when the case selection intends to represent maximum variation in variables that might influence a phenomenon [52
]. Eighteen vineyards were chosen that were a variety of sizes from 20 to 800 acres, with an average size of 241 acres. A variety of sizes were selected because farm size can influence productivity and economies of scale [53
], grower willingness to reduce productivity to implement GI, and the availability of unproductive land for GI. Vineyards were also chosen to reflect a variety of certifications (Table 1
). All farms were also Salmon safe certified, which is a not-for-profit Pacific west coast-focused organization that specifies best land management practices with respect to water quantity and quality in support of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus
) and other indigenous spp. associated with waterways.
Twenty-one key informants (farmers within the vineyards) were chosen non-randomly and purposely as those judged knowledgeable and sufficiently experienced in their respective roles in their vineyard. Following interviews, other informants within the vineyard were identified via the snowball method. Interviewees had an average 18 years’ experience in their expertise. Selected interviewees held one or more of five roles on vineyards: (1) Vineyard owner, (2) vineyard manager, (3) winemaker, (4) vineyard consultant, and (5) ranch manager. To preserve their anonymity, interviewees are referenced according to a code (Table 2
Long interviews were conducted lasting on average 75 min. The interview was designed and analysed according to Frankfort-Nachmias et al. [54
]. The design was semi-structured, focussing on three main questions: What GI and other production systems (beyond grape and wine production) key informants had on their farms, how they designed and managed them, and why they implemented them. Questions were open ended, allowing respondents to answer in their own words and express whatever they felt most important. If necessary, some more specific follow-up questions were added to avoid bias. For example, after key informants were asked about the GI on their farms, they were asked whether they had specific elements of GI. Terms familiar to growers were used in interviews to avoid misunderstanding. For example, terms such as green infrastructure, ecosystem services and disservices were not used as we could not assume growers were familiar with these concepts. Rather, we referred to GI as non-vine vegetation or water systems, and ecosystem services and disservices as benefits and drawbacks. Saturation of concepts was observed after 21 interviews.
Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analysed using qualitative content analysis. The inductive coding of interview data allowed for the systematic development of categories (main themes and sub-themes of related information).
3.1. Green Infrastructure Components
Interviewees indicated they had six main categories of GI on their farms: (1) Cover crop corridors, (2) invertebrate and pest patches, (3) nesting boxes and perches, (4) oak savanna or woodland patches and corridors, (5) hedgerows, and (6) entryway tree corridors, cellar door herbaceous and lawn Patches, and Ponds. The first three categories of GI were spatially associated with vineyard blocks. These were most frequently cited and valued as GI and were actively designed and managed in support of grape production. GI categories four and five were spatially focused on the edges of vineyard farms, or along waterways. These were also mentioned as valuable, largely for their nature conservation and branding services, but most growers did not actively design or manage them for these services, “The only area specifically designed is the vineyard which includes all the blocks of grapes and associated infrastructure. Anything outside receives only periodic mowing or no management (VWO1).” Lastly, category six GI types were spatially associated with cellar doors and wineries. Although when prompted growers said they were important for sales and branding, they were not volunteered as GI on farms. These GI were highly designed and managed but were not viewed by growers as operationally part of grape production areas.
3.1.1. Cover Crop Corridors
All interviewees grew cover crops between vine rows, with most alternating mown grass homogenous row crops with periodically cut diverse meadow row crops. Mown grass was perceived as being superior in preventing soil erosion, and for supporting tractor and human vine management, relative to meadow. It was also perceived to provided poorer habitat for small mammal pests (such as mice), reduced fire risk, and improved airflow to reduce risk of mildew. Meadow row crops were attributed complementary functions, providing habitat for beneficial insects, fungal and bacterial species which reduced grape vine pests, the most significant concern among interviewees. Furthermore, they regulated soil fertility and organic matter in support of vine growth, and therefore grape quality, “There we have clover growing, that’s a nitrogen fixing plant. It impacts vine vigour, so you can grow plants to either take vigour out or put it back in (V3).”
Interviewees indicated a barrier to implementing meadow row crops was uncertainty regarding effective plant species for pest management. While accreditors provided guidance, evidence-based guidelines in support of consistent performance were lacking. Interviewees believed these services were provided; however, they did not monitor them, so were uncertain, “It’s not something I’ve tried to measure. I think they work, but I’m basing this on intuition and romance (V3).” Many thought they might also harbour pest species, “It can be a host for beneficials sometimes during the year, but it can also harbour pests (V2).” However, many interviewees said their region did not have significant pest issues and therefore, they were not highly concerned about this possibility, “We don’t have a lot of pests. The biggest thing in terms of insects would be mites and even they are not a big problem (VWO1).”
Uncertainty regarding how to manage cover crops through time was a significant barrier to implementation. Interviewees said they wanted a permanent cover crop, but where they cultivated it (e.g., to manage rigour), they had to re-establish it, which was expensive. In addition, some interviewees said meadow species taller than 18 inches interfered with insecticide application, impeded vine airflow increasing risk of mildew; and increased the risk of fire. In response, they cut meadows to below this height; however, were concerned this, and the application of pesticides, degraded habitat for, or killed, beneficial organisms; and reduced availability of seeds for meadow reestablishment, “If I could, I’d let everything go to seed and then I’d mow, but that’s too late. By then, the stuff has grown too high above the vines, and then my sprays won’t work (VWO4).”
3.1.2. Beneficial Invertebrate or Pest Patches
A minority of interviewees were also establishing small meadow patches between vineyard blocks, providing supplementary habitat to insectary corridors, and refuges for insect populations affected by management activities, “We’ve put five 3 × 3 insectaries on a 20-acre parcel. That’s enough to support a high level of beneficial insects. In the vine rows, I always have something flowering, but not heavily. What I’m trying to do is build bridges there but encourage the bulk of the populations in the islands (VWO1).” Some also mentioned their aesthetic functions and habitat for bees, “They’re beautiful to people walking in the vineyard, and we want to support native bees, even though they have nothing to do with the vineyard (RM1).”
Two interviewees said they had retained existing blackberry patches for pest species habitat. They believed patches played a role in attracting pests, so they would be less likely to occupy vines, “The blackberries provide homes for things like drosophila and the fruit flies that can get into the grapes. We’d rather have them go there than the grapes (VO1).”
While interviewees indicated they determined the species mix of meadow patches, their other characteristics, such as size, shape, or location of both types of inter-vine patches were determined, not by design, but by the characteristics of the land left over after grape blocks had been planted.
3.1.3. Nesting Boxes and Perches
Many interviewees said they had nesting boxes and perches, most mounted on posts within and between vineyard blocks, to encourage raptors to control passerine bird and small mammal pests, “Mice populations go through ebb and flow cycles and when they spike they can cause problems—same with gophers, moles, and voles. But, if you provide a place for a hawk to sit and hunt, they’re doing the work for you, and you don’t have to use poison (V4).”
3.1.4. Oak Savanna or Woodland Patches and Corridors
Most interviewees said they had remnant oak savanna or woodland patches. LIVE and Demeter biodynamic certified interviewees indicated these areas were essential for meeting certification requirements for setting aside land for nature conservation (also referred to as ecological compensation zones). Qualifying land for set asides could not be associated with production, and these were among the few areas on farms that met that criteria. Certification allowed access to some markets and price premiums; however, interviewees argued it was not essential to wine sales.
Growers also said that many of these areas are not biophysically capable of producing quality wine grapes or supporting any other valued production system. The availability of these unproductive areas enabled larger farms to accept the loss of these lands from wine grape production. Small vineyard farms were largely growing quality grapes on most of their land, and the lack of unproductive grape land was a significant barrier to GI implementation, “You’re giving up land that could be farmed and profitable (V3).” To avoid losing productive land, and still meet certification requirements, one grower with a small vineyard said he leased a neighbour’s woodland patch to meet set aside requirements.
Conservation of these areas was also enabled by owners who believed these semi-natural areas were important contributors to the cultural heritage of their landscape, and valued nature conservation above maximizing production. These values were evidenced by growers who conserved oak savanna or woodlands on land capable of growing quality wine grapes, “That forest over there would make a beautiful site for wine grapes, but it won’t be because the owner is conservation minded (V1).”
All growers said the key ecosystem service of these areas was to provide habitat for “nature conservation.” Most argued patches did not benefit their vineyard production system, although a few growers argued they were important for maintaining low levels of pest outbreaks in their wine region, “Your biodiverse areas provide crucial habitat for animals that will end up doing you favours. You get outbreaks of pests in a vacuum. Where the ecosystem functions as a whole, you’re less likely to see outbreaks (V3).” One of these interviewees said the number of conventionally designed vineyards was increasing in the region, and she was concerned that the resulting loss of GI, in addition to impacts of climate change, would result in increased pest outbreaks, “With changing climate, I am concerned that pest types and numbers may change as is being experienced in France. We are now seeing more pests with more conventionally managed vineyards going into the valley (VWO1).”
Many growers also said these areas were key to the branding of their wine, and the wines within the Willamette valley wine region, “It’s part of our story—that we’re working hard to be as sustainable as possible—so the land we’re farming on is in production for as long as possible. Brand Oregon means quality, and then environmentally conscious, a lack of greed, sense of place and stewardship (V1).”
Many growers who had waterways on their properties had conserved woodlands, along with other types of semi-natural vegetation, within their riparian corridors. They said they were important for mitigating negative environmental impacts of their production practices (e.g., use of pesticides) on water quality within their catchments. They followed Salmon safe certification requirements in their design, “This is a non-fish bearing stream, but it does feed into our fish bearing waters. We maintain a buffer—it’s probably 150 feet and no spray (VWO1).” A secondary ecosystem service provided by these areas was nature conservation, particularly Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.). Salmon safe certification requirements for buffers, and guidance on their design, including widths, were key enablers for their implementation. However, some interviewees used at least part of their buffers for tractor turnarounds, which negatively affected their nature conservation functions, “In some cases you need 30 to 35 feet between end of row and fence to turn around your tractors during harvest, so there’s a good reason to have a buffer strip at the end of rows (VWO1). Tractors are going to tear that (the buffer) up pretty badly (V1).”
Interviewees said disservices of woodlands included the provision of habitat for small pest mammals (e.g., voles, moles, and mice) which eat grapes and burrow holes in vineyard blocks. They said their woodlands also provided habitat for pest birds; however, most believed these would arrive regardless of their woodland, because of the amount of woodland in their landscape. They indicated they had effective methods for controlling them, “The flocks would still come, but they do like to perch in my woods. We have noisemakers, we have these propane canons, and we have shotguns (VWO3).”
Most interviewees indicated they did not design these areas (e.g., position them, shape them, or choose vegetation communities) to mitigate impacts on water quality within streams, or to support specific indigenous vegetation communities, or wildlife guilds. Their location and designs were largely determined by the biophysical characteristics of land incapable of producing quality wine grapes, or other forms of valued production. While a minority of interviewees were restoring indigenous vegetation species in their oak savanna or woodland, most were not managing these areas beyond removing what they viewed as noxious weeds, like Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus). A few of these interviewees (primarily Demeter biodynamic farmers) used animals to control it, rather than pesticides, which might run off into waterways, “We have the goats primarily to eat blackberry. Then we bring the pigs in to root it up (VOC1).”
Many interviewees indicated they had boundary hedgerows. They said they did not provide any production service but, rather, aesthetic services in support of sales and branding, “They’re not so much necessary in what I’m doing, but they look nice (VO7).” Some said they also provided cultural heritage services, containing remnant oaks from the previous oak savanna, or fruit trees from historic orchards. However, a few said their hedgerows had been removed by previous landowners to maximize grape yields, “We don’t have too many of those left. That was a period of our history when maximizing production was paramount (VO3).” However, they did not have plans to replace them as they did not think they provided enough benefit to offset restoration and management costs.
A small minority believed their hedgerows provided beneficial insect habitat and pointed out the importance of jointly designing and managing these functions with neighbours sharing boundaries, “On those fence lines I’ve planted things like the native Lonicera, and a couple of insectary vines. Last year the neighbour sprayed them. But they were apologetic, replaced the plants, and now we have more of an understanding (VWO1).”
Again, most interviewees said they did not design, or manage their hedgerows in support of ecosystem services, such as pest regulation, nature conservation, or cultural heritage conservation. However, many said they managed them to limit their competition for resources with adjacent wine grapes. For example, they removed large trees, and pruned their hedgerows to reduce their rigour, and to enable vine management, “We have volunteer prunus and apple trees, and tonnes of native fruiting shrubs, but no large trees (VWO1).”
3.1.6. Entryway Tree Corridors, Cellar Door Herbaceous Borders and Lawns, and Ponds
While none of the interviewees mentioned these types of GI when asked whether they had non-vine vegetation or water systems on their properties, all interviewees had highly managed ornamental borders, lawns, and trees in and around cellar doors, and entryways. Characterised by mostly exotic and ornamental species, these areas of GI were the only ones on farms that appeared to be professionally designed by landscape architects. They were also highly managed. When asked, growers said they were important for the branding and sale of their wine. This was particularly true among interviewees having vineyards that sold a significant amount of their wine directly to consumers.
A few interviewees had human-designed irrigation and/or water supply ponds associated with their cellar doors and wineries. In addition to these functions, they provided fire regulation services, and contributed to cellar door aesthetics. These were not connected to waterways and were intensively managed to maintain their irrigation, water supply, and fire regulation functions through dredging. Most were artificially created and were not natural looking in appearance. For example, many had mown grass to the water’s edge, and little indigenous, or natural-looking riparian vegetation.
3.2. Green Infrastructure Networks
Only one interviewee said she had implemented a GI network of components. She had a degree in ecology and had designed a beneficial invertebrate network consisting of inter vine row meadow cover crops and insectary patches, “We’ve put five 3 × 3 insectaries on a 20-acre parcel. That’s enough to support a high level of beneficial insects. In the vine rows, I always have something flowering, but not heavily. What I’m trying to do is build bridges there but encourage the bulk of the populations in the islands (VWO1).”
She argued that a system, or network, approach to designing this GI was essential for maintaining beneficial invertebrate populations through time in face of impacts from vineyard management activities.
While a minority of interviewees mentioned they sought to apply a whole farm approach to implementing their farm practices (as is promoted by both LIVE and Demeter biodynamic certification), they were uncertain about what this meant for designing their GI. One interviewee indicated he was aware that a whole farm GI design approach, rather than a component approach, was necessary to enhance biodiversity in his vineyard, but did not mention such a design approach was important to support other GI services. He also suggested he was unsure about the GI systems he had on his farm. He said he first had to hire an external consultant to conduct a GI survey before he could arrive at a farm-wide design, “We’re going for a whole farm audit on the property and then coming up with a comprehensive plan to increase biodiversity (V4).”
Some interviewees indicated barriers to integrated GI design were accreditation set aside rules that assumed only some elements of vineyard GI provided nature conservation, e.g., woodlands and woodland corridors. They argued criteria for what constituted set asides seemed arbitrary, with qualifying elements identified more by their lack of association with production systems (which appeared to include cellar door and residential landscapes), then their contribution to nature conservation (such as providing habitat for indigenous species). They argued they had other areas of GI that may play a role in supporting nature conservation on their farms, but these did not qualify, “that’s yard and it doesn’t matter what you do with it, they (accreditors) still don’t consider it to be part of a compensation zone (VWO2).”
A few interviewees mentioned they were interested in working with neighbouring farms, especially other vineyards, to develop connected GI “set aside” networks to better support nature conservation at coarser spatial scales, as well as to ensure long-term pest control services and general ecosystem resilience in their landscape, “We have neighbours with a vineyard. We’ve talked about ways that we can work together (VO2).” To enable this integration, one interviewee suggested the development of a new accreditation programme applied to all farm systems, focused solely on conserving, and restoring ecological compensation areas across the landscape, “We’re working on breaking that piece of certification off and shopping it around to other types of farms (VWO2).”
3.3. Non-Grape and Non-Wine Production Systems
Most vineyards were following one or more of the following economic and environmental resiliency strategies: (1) Producing multiple wine grape varieties according to differing biophysical conditions across their vineyards, (2) harvesting or purchasing wine grapes from multiple vineyards (including from other growers), (3) producing multiple wine products for different markets, (4) pursuing external employment and/or (5) leasing land incapable of growing quality grapes to neighbouring farmers. However, few farmers focused on incorporating significant areas of non-vine production or agri-tourism. Only one grower mentioned concern for the impacts of climate change, or the need for increased resiliency in face of either economic or environmental stochastic events as reasons for their strategies.
All interviewees said they were uninterested in growing other products than grapes on land suitable for high quality grape production, indicating this was the most profitable land use. Most strongly identified themselves as producers of high-quality grapes and wine, and not of other products or services, “I produce wine grapes and am a winemaker. I don’t do animal husbandry (VO5).”
Only one farmer said he was interested in growing non-shading dwarf fruit trees among his grape vines, arguing this may increase vine health and vineyard aesthetics. However, he expressed uncertainty about how these trees might be incorporated without reducing his profitability per hectare, “It probably would take up more acreage for the same amount of grapes, so then you have additional land costs as spacing of vine rows would have to increase (V3).”
Larger vineyards which had significant areas of land unsuitable for quality grape production were not interested in producing poorer qualities of grapes on these lands, “If you paid for a piece of ground in a premium wine growing region, your goal is to make the best wine you can off a piece of ground. I don’t want to represent anything less (VWO1).” They indicated this was a point of difference between them and conventional winegrowers who maximized grape and wine yields, no matter their quality, “Sure you want yield, but that’s not the main driver for us. However, most vineyards are more yield driven (VWO3).” Most of these interviewees said they used a significant proportion of land incapable of producing quality grapes as lawn or meadow to enhance cellar door aesthetic experience in support of wine branding and sales. Some interviewees also leased areas (especially those not associated with cellar doors), to neighbouring farmers who produced hay or grass seed. A few interviewees, however, said they would not renew these leases as neighbouring farmer practices were not compliant with certification which applied across their farms, ‘We’re going to need to figure out how we’re going to maintain these low grounds because LIVE certification is whole property, not just vineyard. You can’t have a grass seed farmer spraying certain chemicals (OV1).” A minority of interviewees were producing other products within these areas, such as lumber or Christmas trees. However, they said they lacked the time and knowledge to manage and harvest them, “We’ve never worked on it because we never had the time to do it, and it really takes somebody who knows how to manage it and to do it properly, like a forester (V3).”
Among those having larger vineyards were the biodynamic farmers. They were the only interviewees who indicated they valued other production systems on their farms, but mostly for their support for their grape and wine production systems. Vineyard farm managers identified themselves as ranch managers as they managed all their production systems rather than just their vineyards, “My title has a distinction of ranch manager rather than vineyard manager because we do a lot of other things here (RM1).” They said certification required them to design whole farm ecosystems, not just vineyards and winery production systems. While the production of grapes and wine are the primary systems in terms of profitability, their goal was to produce as many of the products and services in support of these systems within the boundaries of their land as possible. Interviewees indicated their multiple production systems provided many benefits, including allowing them to limit use of fossil fuels, waste and other inputs leading to environmental impacts, “We have the organic grain growing on one side, a livestock element, a vegetable farm, and an orchard. The farm uses elements from one part of the farm to support others, allowing us to use the downstream products in a useful way rather than shipping them off the property as waste (RM1).” Their multiple production systems also allowed them to tell a unique story in support of wine sales. Furthermore, interviewees said their staff enjoyed the additional food products and year-round, instead of seasonal, employment. However, none of the additional production systems contributed significantly to farm profitability, as these vineyards did not sell products other than wine, externally.
Smaller vineyards indicated they lacked space for incorporating other productions systems. Given the high price they paid for their land, they said they could not afford to produce products less profitable than wine grapes and wine, “It’s all vineyard suited land and we bought it already planted so we paid for the value of there being vines. Tearing them out means turning land worth $100,000 to land worth $3000 (VWO2).”
Growers need to pursue both efficiency/substitution and biodiversity strategies to improve the environmental performance of conventionally designed vineyard farms. However, few studies explore the implementation of biodiversity strategies among winegrowers. In this research, we helped fill this gap by surveying the strategies of certified growers in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, as potential early adopters of innovative strategies. Identifying new and effective strategies is vital to develop effective ways to harness the power of science in support of their implementation.
Findings indicate growers are implementing multiple types of GI within their farms that provide a range of ecosystem services, ranging from support for grape production, to enhancement of wine sales and branding, to nature conservation. The addition of other production systems on farms received less support among growers but was important for biodynamic winegrowers to minimize their production inputs and support their unique branding. Both GI and multiple production system strategies are focused on enhancing sales/branding, and particularly, grape production services within vineyards. GI that provides production-related services is well supported in the literature; however, more research is needed on GI that provides other valued services related to sales/branding, nature conservation, and particularly resiliency, to identify GI that provides multiple services across farms of value to growers.
This research also uncovers much needed information about the spatial design of GI, showing that it is being designed at three spatial scales: (1) Within vine blocks and sales blocks, (2) between vine blocks, and between vine blocks and sales blocks, and (3) across vineyard farms. GI is largely being integrated into production systems at the fine scale (following a land sharing design strategy). However, at intermediate and farm-wide scales, growers are pursuing a two-fold sharing/sparing strategy, integrating some GI elements into production systems, and at the same time, setting some areas aside for nature conservation. Emphasis placed on sharing strategies by growers reflects the importance they place on production and sales/branding; however, the sparing strategy in support of nature conservation at coarser spatial scales may be important for supporting some species or vegetation communities of conservation concern as some require larger and more connected networks and less disturbance from intensive production systems.
Despite this seemingly sophisticated design approach to implementing GI, growers are following these strategies inadvertently, as they are still largely designing and managing their GI as individual components and are focusing most of their attention on vineyard block components, such as meadow cover crops. To improve GI services and functions within these vineyards, growers need to design their GI as networks and integrate them across their farms, and not just within their production areas. Furthermore, growers might consider working with neighbours, and other stakeholders in the landscape, such as local and regional governments, to accomplish design objectives requiring coarser spatial scale networks, like the restoration of high surface water quality within catchments, conservation of species and communities of concern and support of regional branding. While eight key enablers for encouraging implementation among growers were identified, many barriers to implementation continue to be present, and these need to be overcome for widespread biodiversity strategy implementation, particularly within wine regions where these enablers are missing.