PAP 47 : Landscape and agroecological transition in viticulture

Carine Herbin, February 2021

Le Collectif Paysages de l’Après-Pétrole (PAP)

Anxious to ensure the energy transition and, more generally, the transition of our societies towards sustainable development, 50 planning professionals have joined together in an association to promote the central role that landscape approaches can play in regional planning policies. This « Signé PAP » is proposed by Carine Herbin, member of PAP, agronomist and oenologist, in charge of the landscape project at the French Institute of Vine and Wine (IFV) in Epernay.

To limit the impact of agriculture on the environment and health, a profound change in practices is required in the 21st century, the agro-ecological transition. This transformation involves a specific difficulty in viticulture, that of having to mobilise an efficient agroecosystem around a perennial plant grown in monoculture, with the aim of limiting inputs while preserving natural resources, with the assurance of a fair distribution of value and the maintenance of the economic profitability of the farms. For twenty years, agro-environmental practices have been developing in the vineyard. The approaches are beginning to be extended to the landscape, the territory and the different types of actors. Under regulatory and societal pressure, the transition is accelerating with the appearance of the notion of socio-agroecological landscapes. To accompany agro-ecological policies and their implementation, the question of a spatial, systemic and landscape approach nevertheless remains to be integrated at the level of the overall management of transformations.

Agroecology, a systemic approach anchored in the dynamics of the territory 1.

Agroecology rethinks the farming system by making maximum use of the functionalities offered by nature. The aim is to reduce pressure on the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by limiting the use of plant protection products to a minimum. It is also a question of preserving natural resources such as water, energy or mineral elements. To do this, it is possible to make the most of ecosystems. The simple interplay of natural forces becomes a production factor when biodiversity is reintroduced into a landscape dynamic.

Agronomy is at the centre of agroecological production systems. Agroecology considers the farm as a whole. It uses a synergy of techniques and is not reduced to any one in particular. The transition to agro-ecology must be considered on a territorial scale, because water dynamics, bio-geochemical cycles, epidemics or pest attacks are on a larger scale than that of cultivated plots. Good management of ecological functions requires the existence of agro-ecological infrastructures. If these infrastructures no longer exist, for example as a result of reparcelling, it will be necessary to think about their redevelopment. These two levels of organisation, the parcel and the territories, must be integrated in a coherent manner. Agro-ecological land management is therefore proposed as a way forward for an effective commitment to transition. It will be based on the historical mapping of the plot of land and on the associated practices resulting from the knowledge and close observation of the farmers.

Agroecology in viticulture

Champagne, Beaujolais, Beaumes-de-Venise: a certain number of appellations and organisations drafted technical guidelines for good practices in the 2000s. Since then, a large number of them have brought about a greening of the vineyards and a gradual transformation of their landscapes by making it compulsory to cover the headlands with grass 2 and to maintain a plant cover in the inter-row. As early as 2004, the INAO had also proposed to protect the terroir in its agro-ecological and agri-landscape components 3. At the same time, landscape and environmental charters and the International Network of Vineyard Landscapes are developing 4 by introducing the notion of landscape management 5 as defined by the European Landscape Convention. In 2017, the French Institute of Vine and Wine and the National Institute of Origin and Quality produced a Guide to Agroecology in Viticulture 6 which lists all the agro-environmental measures to be implemented in an agroecological approach and presents various examples in the region. In a typical vineyard landscape, the vineyard « system » is considered as a set of patterns or elements, structures, actions, productions and effects interacting in a more or less controlled way over time and at the overlapping scales of the farm, the territory and the landscape.

The levers of action are organised in agri-environmental measures according to the themes of viticulture: preservation and development of biodiversity, control/reduction of fertilisation, reduction in the use of phytosanitary products, development of biocontrol, search for better water management, use of more adapted plant material. This representation of a typical vineyard landscape has been equipped with an online animation that makes it possible to distinguish each of the interventions in detail. It highlights the attention that must be paid to the spatial composition and forms chosen to manage the agroecological approach at all scales.

In viticulture, the layout of the land parcel is based on an ancestral foundation of knowledge and experience ensuring the relationship between the quality of the terroirs and that of the products and landscapes. For their part, the delimitation of controlled designations of origin and protected geographical indications are based on the scientific foundations of geology, pedology, agronomy, history, geography, sociology and ethnography. The Climats de Bourgogne appellation is an exemplary example of this set of links and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site 7.

The preservation and development of biodiversity is a cornerstone of agro-ecology and is visible in the landscape. Isolated trees or trees on the edge of plots, copses, flowers, low walls, ponds and watercourses give the landscape a special character. Serving as a refuge for a biodiversity of flora and fauna, their perfectly visible elements play an essential role in agro-ecological terms. Today, more and more experimenters are trying to identify the species that favour the establishment of crop protection agents. A well-chosen location of landscape structures can thus improve the legibility of a site while preventing erosion by stabilising sloping soils, limiting runoff as well as the drift of treatment products and herbicide runoff into river waters. The techniques of afforestation, grassing and flowering change the appearance of the vineyard. They bring a landscape « plus » of a sensitive nature. The charm and variety of an image evoke a

The charm and variety of an image evoke a careful viticulture, « gentle » towards the environment. The scale of the territory also concerns the quality of life and the welcome offered by the wine growers. The agro-ecological approach implies that all the actors, winegrowers, inhabitants, elected officials, tourism specialists develop partnerships. At the initiative of winegrowers or municipalities, environmental landscape charters and wine landscape management programmes have been implemented for many years 8. The achievements and methods of the landscape and environmental charters make it possible to facilitate the transition to agroecology. Today, with the important VITIREV programme 9 « to encourage a more ecological and innovative viticulture that guarantees the typicality of its wines », the New Aquitaine region has set up territorial initiative laboratories (LIT) throughout the territory, bringing together local players to reflect on appropriate solutions. Taking care of the quality of the environment, the winegrowing landscape and the products strengthens the link and the identity value that make the pride of each region.

Regulatory frameworks for the agro-ecological transition

In 2014, the French public authorities launched the agroecological project for France 10 in order to initiate the transition of French agriculture towards new, more efficient production systems in the three economic, social and environmental dimensions. The provisions of the Law on the Future of Agriculture enacted on 14 October 2014 confirm this orientation 11. The French public authorities also set up the Ecophyto plan in 2008 and then Ecophyto II in 2015 12 to seek to reduce the consumption of pesticides. Developing agro-ecology for biodiversity is one of the main lines of the 2018 biodiversity plan 13, which recognises the value of actions that reduce dependence on plant protection products and strengthen progress approaches such as organic farming, « high environmental value » certification and Dephy farms 14. The environmental certification system for farms has been developed by the State since 2012 15. In its framing elements with strong agro-ecological ambitions, there is one shortcoming: they do not introduce the spatial thinking that would enable farmers to best localise the steering of the necessary transformations.

Supporting the transition in viticulture

Drafted by the profession at the beginning of 2018, following the Etats généraux de l’agriculture, the wine industry plan announces strong commitments in terms of ecological transition and social responsibility 16 . The French Institute of Vine and Wine subsequently produced, in 2018, its contract of solutions to accompany the ecological transition of the wine sector, broken down into 8 themes 17. As part of the wine industry plan, the ambitious objective of certifying 50% of winegrowing operations as High Environmental Value or AB by 2025 led the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the French Institute of Vine and Wine and the Independent Winegrowers to draw up an awareness-raising guide for the industry’s stakeholders 18.

The TRAEVITI Coll project (TRansfer des mesures Agroenvironnementales VITIcoles vers les COLLectifs) of the French Institute of Vine and Wine also aims to support this transition by helping to make the approach concrete, by working on a methodology and support tools with volunteer groups, and by giving national and international recognition to the commitments of winegrowers through their video testimonies on an interactive sound map. Within this framework, in 2018, a national survey produced lessons on the needs and levers of the agroecological transition. A social network dedicated to the agroecological transition in viticulture was also created. The methodology, the tools to come and the progressive enrichment of transition testimonies will make it possible to support and illustrate the change at the scale of the collectives by stressing the place of the spatial approach.

Acceleration of the agro-ecological transition from 2020

The urgent need for ecological transition is taken into account in a historic way by the national recovery plan of 2020. This plan proposes the transition as an « accelerator of our economic and social model ». In its « Agricultural, food and forestry transition » section of 3 September 2020, the plan provides for « accelerating the agro-ecological transition to healthy, safe, sustainable, local and quality food for all ». Massive financial support is provided for the structuring and development of efficient sectors, with in particular the promotion and support of environmental performance and a remarkable innovation concerning the hedgerow measure. The plan provides for the replanting of 7,000 km of hedges over two years, and promotes the sustainable management of existing hedges. Since 2020, the regional wine sector plans also propose the acceleration of agroecology and its support. Let us recall the obvious synergies and complementarities of the agroecological and landscape approaches. The landscape approach gives substance to this transition and facilitates it: « With the landscape as the basis of the territorial project and operational action, the landscape approach renews strategies and practices. It enhances the value of the agricultural or forestry area which, relying on its own resources, can regain a dynamic by choosing the transition towards agro-ecology or sustainable forestry » 19.

Research questions

The implementation of new practices that interlock the levels of action to boost interdependent processes but on very different scales has led to a renewal of research topics in agronomy. The notion of agro-ecosystem has given new meaning and legitimacy to the landscape issue by showing that the complexity of the environment, sensitively perceived and experienced by human subjects, can be understood and analysed as a network of complex interactions in a system that can be objectively described. The enhancement of ecological and hydro-biogeochemical processes in multifunctional landscapes is now a research issue involving the part played by human actors. The work of knowledge thus concerns the analysis of the effects of heterogeneity at nested spatial and temporal scales. Integrated approaches allow for the multifunctionality of landscapes and can therefore account for the diversity of actors involved in the biophysical processes that develop in these complex environments. These analyses open up a wide range of possibilities for designing agroecological landscapes, with the necessary accompanying methodological devices and developments 20. A broader approach to agroecology is proposed by Thierry Doré and Stéphane Bellon in their recent book Les Mondes de l’agroécologie 21. « Agroecology is a new way of linking agriculture, science, the environment and society. In this sense, agroecology goes far beyond a normative set of practices, farming systems, and even principles and rules of action. It shapes a social mechanism that brings together the agricultural world, research, public decision-makers and citizens, to define a path of change, transition and progress. Agroecological transition calls for the recomposition of agroecosystems. This approach is said to be ‘breakthrough’, since it is established by taking advantage of processes ignored by conventional agriculture, but on which the agricultural systems that preceded the green revolutions were based on the observation or intuition of ecological relationships. The reintegration of livestock into agriculture, for example, allows the diversification of production systems. Similarly, agroforestry can lead to the diversification of production. A variety of approaches contribute to these approaches in basic research and development. The short film « What is an agroecological vineyard? « presents the principles of diversification and the levers, co-constructed with winegrowers and stakeholders, that have been implemented to limit inputs in the agro-ecological vineyard of the IFV’s experimental estate in Montreuil-Bellay (Anjou). Dedicated exclusively to viticulture and led by INRAE, the new VITAE research programme ‘Cultivating vines without pesticides: towards agroecological viticultural socio-ecosystems’ tackles scientific fronts that have been little explored until now while questioning the extent of the social changes required to promote this agroecological break 22.

Through the experimental recomposition of agro-eco-socio-systems and the diversification of fauna, flora and vitiforestry 23 underway, the transition underway in viticulture is unfolding its new landscapes, with the virtuous, qualitative and participatory production methods that are strengthening the reputation of the national vineyard. These pilot approaches are paving the way for an agriculture that renews its pact with the visible because of the landscape approaches that support them. On these very themes, the PAP project currently being set up « Landscapes and farmers in transition - Experiences of farmers producing and mobilising landscapes » intends to show how farmers’ work today can rebuild eco-landscapes on the basis of an understanding of the farm site and of the way in which its ecosystem can constitute the basis of so many functional spatial forms that are offered to visual apprehension. This sustainable agricultural landscape produces a wide variety of food and services, adapted to the challenges of climate change, supporting a lively local life, rich in employment and respectful of the environment that forms its vital base.

  • 1 (2013)

  • 2 « Space set aside at the edge of ploughed or cultivated land for turning the plough or an agricultural machine ».

  • 3 Appellations d’origine et paysages, Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO), 2006

  • 4 Val de Loire, Costières de Nîmes, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais, Banyuls and Collioure, Grand Pic Saint-Loup…

  • 5 Gestion des paysages viticoles, IFV, 2015

  • 6 Guide de l’agroécologie en viticulture, IFV and INAO, 2017. This reference document concretises the sector’s ambitions in terms of environmental strategy and provides a response to societal expectations concerning environmental protection by describing various measures to limit the consumption of inputs (fertilisers, phytosanitary products, water in particular).

  • 7 « In Burgundy, the climat designates a parcel of vines that has been progressively and precisely delimited by man, and has been recognised by its name for centuries, often since the Middle Ages. Each climat has specific geological, hydrometric and exposure characteristics. The production of each climate is vinified separately, from a single grape variety, and the wine thus produced takes the name of the climate from which it is made. The personality of the climate is expressed in the wine, vintage after vintage, thanks to the know-how of the winemaker. Nowhere else in the world has man sought to link wine production to its place of production in such a precise and intimate manner.

  • 8 Gestion des paysages viticoles, IFV, 2015

  • 9

  • 10 Ministry of Agriculture, Agro-ecological project for France, (2014)

  • 11 National Assembly and Senate, Law 2014-1170 of 13 April 2014 on the future of agriculture, food and forestry, Journal Officiel, No. 238 (2014). The law gives the following definition of agro-ecology: ‘agro-ecological production systems give priority to the autonomy of farms and the improvement of their competitiveness, while maintaining or increasing their economic profitability, improving the added value of production and reducing the consumption of energy, water, fertilisers, plant protection products and veterinary medicines, in particular antibiotics. These agro-ecological production systems are based on biological interactions and the use of ecosystem services and potentials offered by natural resources, in particular water resources, biodiversity, photosynthesis, soils and air, maintaining their renewal capacity from a qualitative and quantitative point of view. They contribute to mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

  • 12 Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Ecology, Ecophyto II plan, (2015)

  • 13 Ministry of Ecological Transition, (2018)

  • 14 Farms engaged in a voluntary approach to reduce the use of pesticides.

  • 15 Ministry of Agriculture, An environmental certification for farms . It is based on the themes of biodiversity, phytosanitary strategy, fertilisation management and water resource management (level 3: High Environmental Value HVE) and defines the levels of indicators to be achieved on farms, i.e. an obligation of result.

  • 16 Wine industry plan to be implemented through the application of agri-environmental measures, the reduction of phytosanitary products and the development of AB and HVE certifications - by 2025. Comité national des interprofessions des vins à appellation d’origine et à indication géographique (CNIV) 2017.

  • 17 Breakdown into 8 themes:

  • Develop precision viticulture using a tool to help with treatment decisions at the farm level.

  • Formalise, in conjunction with equipment manufacturers, a classification of the environmental performance of sprayers, a lever for reducing drift and product doses.

  • Propose methods for reducing the dose according to the vegetative stage of the vine and the quality of the spraying.

  • Anticipate the withdrawal of glyphosate by producing technical references related to mechanical weeding and the management and control of weediness.

  • Identify technical impasses following possible decisions to withdraw molecules and seek alternative solutions.

  • Facilitate the deployment of vine disease resistant varieties, in particular by strengthening the link with the ODG.

  • Develop a national biocontrol plan with public research and private partners.

  • Support environmental certification processes (HVE, AB) and the application of agri-environmental measures in PDO and PGI specifications. Today, solutions are provided with Decitrait®, a tool for making treatment decisions, Performance Pulvé®, a platform to help choose treatment equipment according to their performance class for reducing phytosanitary inputs, a brochure on « How to take into account the new regulation restricting the use of glyphosate in my technical itinerary? « and a series of educational webinars.

  • 18 Guide to raising awareness of High Environmental Value certification for wine industry stakeholders, , IFV, 2019.

  • 19 , CGEDD, CGAAER report, February 2020.

  • 20 Agroecology, research for the transition of sectors and territories, QUAE editions, January 2020.

  • 21 Les Mondes de l’agroécologie, Thierry Doré and Stéphane Bellon, éditions QUAE, 2019, page 94

  • 22 VITAE , 2020

  • 23 Agroforestry in viticulture - n°28 Itinéraire IFV, 2018