3 % of French winegrowers use horses

Wednesday December 23 2020 by Vitisphere

 68% of estates using horse-drawn farm implements are certified organic. 68% of estates using horse-drawn farm implements are certified organic. - Photo credit : Château de Sours / Hubert de Castelbajac

Over the past few years we have seen renewed interest in horse-drawn implements from winegrowers aiming to use fewer chemical inputs and fossil fuels and preserve their soils from compaction and erosion”, said Clémence Bénézet, a research engineer in horse-drawn traction at the Horse and Riding Institute (IFCE) on 11 December during the ‘Horses in viticulture’ conference held on YouTube.

The French Vine and Wine Institute (IFV), the Institute of Breeding (Idele) and the IFCE have worked together for three years to improve understanding of the extent of the trend. From mid-May to mid-June 2020, as part of the Equivigne project, they first conducted an online survey “of a listed but non-exhaustive population of 300 winegrowers who use or have already used horses to plough their land”, explained Bénézet. 96 winegrowers responded. “63% of them use a service provider, 30% have their own horses and 7% use both”. 36 then agreed to share information by telephone.

Horses are mainly used for hilling up, ploughing back and ridge removal. They are also used for screefing in narrow rows, for inter-vine hoeing and for maintaining young vine plantations and old, quality bush-trained vines. One of the advantages of horses is that they can be used in all plots and in any weather, and they improve the bearing capacity and health of the soil. “This is mainly why winegrowers swap tractors for animals, on top of the fact that they enjoy their company”, continued Garance Marcantoni, viticulture advisor at the Var Chamber of Agriculture. “The hooves don't mark the soils as much as a tractor's tyres, limiting compaction. Horses don’t create vibrations either, and only move small amounts of soil, so that even in regions prone to torrential rainfall, such as the Mediterranean, they considerably limit erosion”.

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