Agribusiness in vineyard land sparing and sharing strategies - Lessons learned from Willamette valley, Oregon, U.S. vineyards

Authors and Affiliations: 

Dr. Wendy McWilliam, Lincoln University, New Zealand

Corresponding author: 
Dr. Wendy McWilliam, Lincoln University, New Zealand

In some wine regions vineyard landscapes have thrived over long periods of time as biodiverse vegetation communities. Changing policies and market conditions have led to their simplification, and, although more productive, these systems are criticised for their negative social, cultural and ecological consequences (e.g. Altieri & Nicholls 2002; Friedland 2002; Warner 2006). Two alternative production strategies have been debated (for intensive agricultural systems in general) to conserve or restore at least some of the ecosystem services of traditional systems (Fischer et al. 2008). In a land sparing strategy, large areas of monoculture vineyards are focused on the most capable land and marginal areas are set aside for nature conservation (e.g. Green et al. 2005). However, this system is criticised for mitigating few intensive system environmental impacts (Matson and Vitousek 2006) and for its infrequent implementation among landowners who see few benefits (Fischer et al. 2008). A second alternative is the conservation or restoration of some of the elements of traditional land sharing strategies that integrate green infrastructure (non-vine vegetation) into the vineyard production systems rather than segregate it (e.g. Manning et al. 2006). However, these systems may to be less productive (e.g. Green et al. 2005), less efficient, and riskier (e.g. Altieri & Nicholls 2002; Watkins et al. 2000). They also may not be implemented if they do not provide sufficient benefit to vineyard owners (e.g. Cullen et al. 2013).
There is a need for studies that evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of alternative systems (Altieri & Nicholls 2002) toward the identification of more sustainable alternatives. Toward that end, in-depth, semi-structured, face to face interviews were conducted with vineyard owners and managers of Willamette valley, Oregon, U.S. vineyards to evaluate their combined sparing and sharing strategy. Questions answered include: What green infrastructure is in place? What services/disservices does it provide? Why do vineyards conserve and restore it? What are the enablers and barriers to its conservation and restoration? And, what lessons can be learned to advance the conservation and restoration of more biodiverse vineyard systems while ensuring an acceptable level of production?


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