Biologicals, Organics And The Sustainable Vineyard

By: Gerald Dlubala

Biologicals represent a broad grouping of pest management products that are sourced from nature and derived from plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and minerals. Whether or not a biological can be certified organic depends upon the active ingredients, inert ingredients and formulation procedures, as well as whether transgenics are used in their creation. Guidelines established by organic certification agencies such as the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) determine whether a biological is qualified for certification in organic agriculture. And according to Dr. Melissa J. O’Neal, Senior Product Development Manager of Marrone Bio Innovations, the world of biologicals encompasses a new frontier for growers, and regardless of the size of their operation, they can benefit from biological use, with new and novel tools to add to their 21st-century vineyard management toolkit.

Marrone Bio Innovations Knows The Importance Of Integrated Pest Management

  “The use of biologicals is particularly important when taken in context with the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM),” said O’Neal. “IPM programs combine chemical, biological, cultural and other control methods to manage pests. In doing so, the efficacy of both biologicals and conventional materials is preserved for longer periods, and the development of resistance in pest populations is delayed through using multiple modes of action in rotational or tank-mix programs. Because the hurdles to registration for biologicals are lower compared to products based on synthetic chemistry, they can be brought to market more quickly and offer flexibility in terms of re-entry to treated areas. They are also safer for humans and other non-targeted organisms because they generally have favorable toxicity profiles compared to synthetic chemistries. All of Marrone Bio Innovations’ products have been proven to be safe for use with commonly utilized biocontrol organisms applied in vineyards.”

  The conditions of use are flexible, as biologicals can be used either in place of or in combination with conventional treatments. Both rotational programs and tank mixes are elements of what Marrone Bio Innovations refers to as their BioUnite™ approach, combining chemistry and biology. By using this combined approach, results outperform solo applications of conventional materials because of a higher efficacy due to the additive effect of multiple active ingredients in multiple methods of action. Programs like Marrone Bio Innovations’ BioUnite™ provide growers with IPM programs that harness the power of biology with the performance of chemistry, resulting in a more efficient food production system that is safe, affordable, sustainable and easy to use.

  “The comparative costs for biologicals can be very competitive to conventional chemistry, especially when used in programs,” said O’Neal. “All of Marrone Bio Innovations’ products are user-friendly requiring no additional labor, time, or logistics beyond those already used with conventional methods. Our products also have favorable safety profiles, with four-hour re-entry intervals and zero-day pre-harvest intervals. They are reduced risk, tolerance exempt, and all except Haven, our abiotic stress manager, are OMRI certified.”

  Biopesticides like those offered by Marrone Bio Innovations are split into two different categories, microbials and plant extracts.

  “Some of our most commonly used products are Regalia for Powdery Mildew and Venerate XC for mealybugs,” said O’Neal. “But we do offer a product portfolio to address insect pests, diseases and abiotic stressors of grape, including two bio fungicides, Regalia and Stargus, two bioinsecticides, Grandevo and Venerate, and a heat and sun stress protectant, Haven.”

  O’Neal said that biologicals have excellent efficacy when used in the manner they are intended, typically meaning with earlier application compared to conventional methods. Specifically, treatment thresholds should be much lower when working with biologicals, and in many cases, preventative treatments should be made when conditions become conducive to pest development. Although biologicals tend to kill pests more slowly, the damage being done by the pest is stopped at the time of application, even if complete mortality takes several days. Necessary practices connected with the use of biologicals involve careful scouting for pests, thorough recordkeeping, and the utilization of pest prediction models to lead the vineyard management’s decision making. Because treatment thresholds with biologicals are lower, the decision to treat must be made early in the pest population cycle. The methods aren’t any more time consuming than performing those of conventional materials, but they are likely to occur at earlier junctures. Retreatment intervals with many of their products occurs within one to two week intervals.

  “All in all, the future of organic farming is bright,” said O’Neal. “It’s a product of consumer preference, desire for sustainability, increasing regulatory agency pressure on the synthetic chemistries, and the boom of technologies that are available to growers. Trends and innovations in the organic space currently have a keen focus on the technology front, with computer prediction models, drone applications and remote technologies of many types being among recent hot topics. Biologicals will become a key component in both organic and conventional farming because of the many benefits, so vineyard managers and farmers are urged to always use a holistic mindset in their decision-making approach. Pest and disease management are continual tasks that extend beyond the growing season. These tasks require year-round planning based on continuous program revision and research of newly available and emerging management tools. In the present agricultural landscape, managers likely need to utilize a combination of biological, chemical and cultural management tactics along with any others that they encounter.” 

BioSafe Systems, Protecting Crops, Water And People

  “Vineyard managers today have many more options for producing a high-quality crop with minimal impact on their land or budget,” said Taylor Vadon, PCA, Technical Sales Representative along the North and Central California Coast for BioSafe Systems. BioSafe Systems are innovators of environmentally sustainable practices and products to protect crops, water and people across North America.

  “Biological inputs have become essential for vineyard crop protection and critical for integrated pest management programs, offering growers effective, low to no residue products that are less susceptible to pest resistance and have a minimal environmental impact. Some of the more innovative biological products bolster plant health, strengthen plants against abiotic stress, build soil biodiversity, improve nutrient and water uptake and boost crop quality and yields. Overall, biological products provide vineyard managers with a unique class of product options outside of the traditionally available chemistries to develop holistic management plans for their operations that still successfully meet the challenges of today.”

  As with many aspects of organic and conventional farming, choosing the correct method for your situation is critical. Vadon tells The Grapevine Magazine that organic products can always be used in conventional vineyards, often providing benefits that many conventional products don’t. A great example of a crossover organic is BioSafe Systems’ OxiDate®5.0, a broad-spectrum fungicide/bactericide that proves to be an ideal tank-mix partner with many conventional chemistries because its on-contact activity immediately eradicates pathogens reducing disease pressure, allowing the other chemistries to more effectively provide crop protection.

  “Biopesticides can be just as effective as conventional products if the correct product is chosen and used properly,” said Vadon. “The key to success is knowing when and how to use them. A grower must properly scout the vineyard and build a thorough understanding of the pests that challenge their crop. Then they will know what types of products to use and the correct timing threshold for peak efficiency. Many biopesticides require applications ahead of a widespread disease outbreak as a preventative approach. Depending on the target pest, level of pressure and timing of application, a grower can expect results from biopesticides within hours or days of application. The organic pesticide product sector has been one of the fastest-growing, encompassing categories like biopesticides and antimicrobials utilizing innovative ingredients including microorganisms, plant extracts, organic peroxide/peracetic acids, oils, soaps and minerals.”

  Sustainability of any biological use program is achieved through a well-structured management strategy that utilizes best practices to successfully manage the vineyard with the least amount of negative bearing on the ecosystem. We should all know, especially after the last couple of years, how unpredictable Mother Nature can be, so being flexible enough to adapt to changes is critical to success. It will always be the insect or disease pressure, incidence, and severity that dictates any adjustments to the vineyard manager’s schedule.

  “Our goal of sustainability extends beyond just the product itself and includes our manufacturing process,” said Vadon. “BioSafe Systems produces many of its products at target facilities throughout the United States, allowing us full control of the manufacturing process with the ability to provide the purest products for vineyard use. This way, we minimize our carbon footprint by having the products strategically located in the geographical areas of demand. With many conventional products becoming more restricted or removed, the rise in natural resistance building up in pest populations, and the growing concern of protecting people and land, the benefits of incorporating biological products into a winery’s management program are more apparent than ever. From the backyard trellis to the small family vineyard to the rolling hills of massive operations, biological products can always find a home. No longer is the question about if it’s worth it, but the question has become how you can afford not to use them. Actual product application frequencies and associated time implementing these management tactics do not greatly differ between organic and conventional practices, and when done properly, can be no more economically expensive than the conventional methods. The real hidden cost is the price on the environment that the traditional and conventional pest management practices present by leaving harmful residues due to improper handling or management.”

  “The number of acres using organic practices has steadily increased and shows no signs of slowing,” said Vadon. “Chemical companies will be focusing their efforts on the development and promotion of biologicals in farming that will ultimately address the changing needs of the end-users. The rising popularity of organic methods has begun a massive shift in pest control techniques and spawned many tank-mix programs combining conventional and organic methods. Mixing applications decreases pest resistance, strengthens the efficacy of other solutions and initiates smooth transitions to more sustainable growing methods. BioSafe Systems’ vineyard production guide lists ten organic product options for vineyard managers to use in the production practices, such as OxiDate®5.0 (organic fungicide/bactericide) for disease control from bud break through dormancy, AzaGuard® (bioinsecticide) for pest management, and TerraGrow® (organic soil inoculant) for improvement of soil microbiology increased vine vigor, reduction of transplant shock, increased root development and improved nutrient and water uptake.”

  “My advice is the same for any conventional and organic growers that use pest management products. Know your vineyard and know your products. It’s a good idea to get to know and develop a relationship with your pest control advisor and technical sales representative, as open communication with experts can only help you become more knowledgeable and better prepared as a grower.”

Brooks Winery: A Model Of Biodynamic Winemaking

  Since 2012, Brooks Winery has been Demeter certified as a biodynamic winery, working to uphold the integrity of their fruit and guide their wines as gently as possible while simultaneously considering the interconnectedness and impact of their operation on the environment and community.

  “Biodynamic farming is an integrated system that treats the farm as a whole and living organism,” said Claire Jarreau, Assistant Winemaker and Grower Liaison. “It is made up of the plants, soils, microbes, animals and people that are all working together in pursuit of harmony. Our holistic approach in the vineyard is to build soil fertility through the use of compost, biodynamic preparations and biodiverse cover crops with the incorporation of animals where possible. Through greater soil health, we grow stronger, more resilient vines that yield balanced fruit for great wine production. I highly encourage others seeking to practice biodynamics on their land to find community and support among other practitioners.”

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