Farm health: The benefits of minimal tilling on a vineyard

As farmers, we know a farm is only as healthy as its soil. We also know that tilling—or overturning, stirring, or digging the soil, usually with heavy machinery—is detrimental to soil health. For this reason, we make a point of employing minimal-till farming at Eco Terreno. 

Tilling versus minimal-till farming

Tilling is a common practice in contemporary agriculture. It breaks up and aerates compacted soil. It’s also employed to mix nutrients, like animal manure, into depleted soil.

This sounds beneficial except tilling leaves soil bare and vulnerable. Exposed soil is at the mercy of the elements, like water erosion and wind damage. 

But the greatest concern is the damage it causes to the soil’s own microbiome. A healthy soil is the habitat of millions of microbes and animals, like worms. They feed off the soil and leave behind their waste, which becomes nutrition for the plants. Tilling destroys this symbiotic relationship and degrades the soil. Then, to rebuild the nutrients and feed the plants, artificial supplementation, like fertilizer, is needed. For it to be incorporated into the soil, tilling is necessary. And so the cycle of destruction begins. 

Instead, at Eco Terreno we farm sustainably by practicing minimal-till farming. This allows us to optimize soil health without disrupting the microbiome. 

In our regeneratively farmed vineyards, minimal-till farming includes using cover crops and grazing animals among our vines.  

Cover crops serve many beneficial purposes. 

  • Provide nutrients to the soil
  • Feed the natural pest controllers that make it their home
  • Help stop soil erosion
  • Protect against moisture loss which reduces our water usage 
  • Feed the grazing animals who return nutrition to the soil through their manure
  • And studies show, cover crops slow climate change through carbon sequestration
Healthy cover crop growing between the vine rows on a biodynamic wine farm in Alexander Valley
Cover crops like grass grow between our vine rows, enhancing the health and vitality of our soil.

Additional benefits of minimal-till farming 

Minimal tilling helps more than just our vineyard. Since we don’t use tractors, we use less fossil fuel on our farm. 

As a winery specializing in lovingly crafted, regeneratively farmed wines, there’s one more incredible benefit: the flavor of our wines! They showcase a true sense of terroir and celebration of the very best of Mother Nature. 

White grapes farmed biodynamically in a container after harvest
Grapes bursting with flavor and vitality are the result of days, months, and years of farming biodynamically.

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