Winegrowing by conservation
Hubert Gerber, our winegrower in Nothalten managing the Grand Cru Muenchberg grows his vines using a method called conservation agriculture.
What is conservation agriculture?
Once or twice a year Hubert sows several kinds of grasses, legumes, grains and plant – an ecosystem that helps and protects one another and lives happily together on the sandstone soil of the terroir. The plants can reach two meters in height until the mulching begins, once the flora lignifies, or becomes rigid and woody. The mulching, in full flowering, consists of bending the stems down to the ground without breaking them. This way the soil is covered by all the vegetation. The saps can no longer rise and the plants dry out. The soil will be protected from the sun and the mulch will keep the earth at a constant cool temperature, guaranteeing that the vines can grow and draw all the necessary resources for their development, even during dry spells. By respecting nature’s cycle, bacterial life is slowed, nothing decomposes. It is important to sow at least five to seven different kinds of plants: peas for nitrogen, rye, flax (ideal against certain insects or beetles), radishes, vetch and clover – a thorough selection, suitable for the terroir to keep the soil intact and natural. The soil is not turned. Nature’s magic goes to work, bringing nutrients and minerals needed by the vines to the earth. In autumn the worms will themselves turn the soil several meters underground, doing the work of ventilating. Humans collaborate more closely with nature in order to produce exceptional grapes.
Advantages of a permanent canopy:
- It limits evapotranspiration, or the evaporation of water in the soil by sunlight or wind. The plant cover severely limits this phenomenon and helps keep the soil cool.
- It favours the soil biomass (all the living organisms). The canopy, linked to composting, increases the soil’s humus content, allowing growth of micro-organic life. Consequently, the complete chain is bigger. The biomass of this kind of soil can be thirty times more than soil worked in the conventional way. In the long term, this biomass will change the structure of the soil, making it lighter, airier and more adaptable, eliminating the need for working the earth.
- A permanent canopy also contributes to airborne life by providing a shelter for many kinds of insects, predators of destructive pests.
The Advantages of this technique using the Rolofaca® invented by Hubert and his brother:
– Eliminates weed killers
– Creates an exceptional habitat for flora and fauna
– Retains humidity better during heat waves
– Gives earthworms more room to live thanks moisture and cool soil temperatures
– Fuel reduction, with 35% fewer CO2 emissions
– Reduced working hoursTotal absence of upkeep or wear and tear on the Rolofaca®
Portrait of a committed winegrower: Hubert Gerber
Hubert Gerber, a third-generation Wolfberger winegrower, has 9 hectares (just over 22 acres) of vines in Nothalten, in the Bas-Rhin. A part of his vines are located on the Grand Cru Muenchberg. Inspired by agriculture and market gardening, Hubert works according to a method called conservation agriculture.
In the past, we had this saying:
“One tilling is worth two waterings.”
Today we can say,
« “One mulching is worth two waterings but with less work and other advantages.”