Bodegas Fundador converts to organic vineyard treatment

Published 17.4.2017   by SHERRY WINES   @sherrywines
Sexual confusion techniques to control the berry moth will be applied throughout the firm’s El Majuelo Vineyard in the pago Macharnudo

Starting this year, the entire 200 hectare surface of the El Majuelo vineyard which Bodegas Fundador owns in the pago Macharnudo will be controlled by “sexual confusion techniques” (TCS) against the berry moth Lobesia Botrana. Since 2004 the firm has held ISO 14001 Environmental Certification which requires constant environmental monitoring and improvement. This has spurred on the bodega to make further environmental progress in all areas of its business, especially the vineyards. 

Among the significant vineyard improvements have been the cessation of burning pruning offcuts, reduction in the use of herbicides, and the introduction of the TCS.

These activities form a part of Fundador’s commitment to minimise environmental impact and to boost organic vineyard management. 

The sexual confusion technique is effective in combating the berry moth (Lobesia Botrana) which is one of the leading vineyard pests in the Old World, especially in southern Europe. Its presence was detected and identified in Jerez in the early 1960s when it became extremely virulent. Symptoms were noted in the grape bunches which, as they ripened, developed serious rot from the mould Botrytis Cinerea, but the root cause was a moth: the polilla del racimo or berry moth. In both its larva and caterpillar form it feeds on the grapes causing lesions which allow the rot to set in. After a serious attack, juice from these grapes will not be good enough for wine making. 

As is normal in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, innumerable chemical substances called pheromones serve as a means of communication among living creatures. In the case of insects this ability is highly specialised, particularly in the sexual field where it facilitates the meeting of the two sexes. The females of the moth emit pheromones which attract males from hundreds of metres away. 

Fundador’s TCS system works by emitting a similar pheromone in large quantities into the area. With so much of it about the males become so confused that it is hard for them to find a mate and the rate of reproduction plummets. This innocuous biotechnical method does no harm to the environment. 

At the latitude where Jerez sits, the insect has magnificent climatic conditions for its multiplication, such that there are three – even four – generations in a year, which could cause very serious potential damage. In each generation the female moth lays the eggs from which the caterpillars will be born, and they will feed on the grapes and create a chrysalis from which they will emerge as new moths. 

In the first generation the eggs are laid on the fine flower leaves of the vine, from which the grapes will develop. The second generation eggs are laid on the nascent grapes, and the third on the ripened grapes. It is now when the danger of an attack by the feared mould Botrytis is at its height. 

The pheromone impregnated dispensers are hung out on the vine branches from March onwards and they will continue their work till the end of the cycle or season. 

Although this technology has been in use in Jerez since 1993 with considerable success, many fewer vineyards use it now due to the high cost. Nevertheless, over the last few years Bodegas Fundador has been increasing its use and now their entire Macharnudo vineyard is protected from a major pest with this environmentally friendly technique.

Sherry Wines @sherrywines
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