Scientists at Swiss federal stations have played a pioneering role in the development of natural methods for controlling vine pests. The ecological control of two vine pests – red and yellow spider mites – by means of their natural predators, phytoseiidae, has rendered the use of acaricides completely obsolete. Initiated in the late 1970s, this ecological method is one of the most successful examples of integrated pest management. Phytoseiidae – which are carnivorous mites – cost nothing, cause no collateral damage and become vegetarian when their prey disappears, regaining a carnivorous diet when their favourite prey reappears. “We just have to make sure that the treatment products used do not affect them,” explains Patrick Kehrli, entomologist at Changins. “Our predecessors were the first to be careful that the fungicides used did not decimate phytoseiidae populations in order to preserve the balance between beneficial insects and pests. To control flavescence dorée, we, like the Italians, use buprofezin, a substance that gives good results against leafhoppers (which spread bacteria that are deadly to vines) but does not pose a problem for phytoseiidae. Conversely, some countries prefer to use pyrethroids, which are much cheaper but also decimate the populations of beneficial insects. Cost is one of the prime factors when choosing a method of insect control. Take the example of sexual confusion (an effective and ecologically harmless grapevine moth control system that was developed in Changins just over 25 years ago): very popular in Switzerland and Germany, its use is marginal in regions where labour is cheaper and plant protection products represent the largest item of expenditure.” This excellent collaboration between scientists and winegrowers has made it possible to develop pragmatic approaches that limit the impact of viticulture on the environment, which have been adopted by many other winegrowing regions in Europe and around the world.
Swiss certification labels
Pioneers in biological control and sexual confusion, the vast majority of Swiss winegrowers work according to the principles of integrated production. Organic farming, which is still a minority, has been growing steadily in recent years.
The label of the organisation Vitiswiss. It guarantees that the farmer respects the fundamental principals of sustainable development. www.vinatura.ch
The label of Bio Suisse. It guarantees production without synthetic pesticides or the use of chemical fertilisers. In 2018, nearly 5 % of Switzerland’s vineyards were certified in organic farming or were in the process of conversion.
The label of biodynamic agriculture. It requires that the farmer first comply with the constraints of organic agriculture. www.demeter.ch
Text made by Swiss Wine Promotion www.swisswine.ch
Copyright photo: Patricia Von Ah