Integrated grape production in Switzerland and its ecological impact in reducing pesticide use


Abstract: Switzerland (41000 km2) is mostly composed of hills and mountains, with a central plateau (450-550 m elevation) and large lakes. One third is covered with high mountains, the Alps, with summits up to 4600 m elevation. Arable land represents approximately 10% of the surface of the country. The viticulture area represents 15000 hectares under alpine climate. Grapevines can only be planted according to a restricted vineyard cadastre, mostly along the lakesides facing south or in well-exposed valleys.Swiss viticulture is characterized by very steep vineyards, small plots (national average < 1 ha per grower), intensive labor (400-1000 h/ha/year), high production costs, and difficult processing. A large number of grape varieties are planted depending on climate and historical background.In the 1970s ecologically aware wine makers and scientists from Agroscope developed the concept of integrated production for sustainable viticulture, according to the definition of the International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC). With respect to regional differences, the general principles of this concept had to be adapted to each viticulture area. Cantonal offices of viticulture are responsible for Integrated Production (IP) organization. In 1993, a head-organization, Vitiswiss, was created to represent the interests of six regional associations. Vitiswiss is composed of a committee of viticulturists from each region and a technical commission of scientists responsible for maintenance and updates to the guidelines, based on new research results.Swiss IP started with the improvement of pest management by the bio-control of spider mites (Panonychus ulmi and Tetranychus urticae) with predatory mites (Typhlodromus pyri and Amblyseius andersoni) and the control of grape berry moths (Lobesia botrana and Eupoecilia ambiguella) by mating disruption. The number of farmers involved increased, and the IP-concept affected all production steps (soil management, planting material, sprayer calibration, biodiversity, water and cover crop management, education, etc.). Today, no acaricides and very few insecticides are used and predators are protected by applying neutral fungicides. Forecasting systems, available on the internet (, represent major progress for the control of mildew in accordance with their epidemics, as does leaf area-adapted dosage of plant protection products.Following basic guidelines of Vitiswiss entitles farmers to financial support by the State government and the Vitiswiss certificate. When additional requirements are fulfilled, the label Vinatura can be used on the bottles. Today, over 85% of the grape-growing area is cultivated according to IP, indicating recognition of sustainability, respect for the environment, and a guarantee for high-quality wine with reduced chemical applications.

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