The potential carbon neutrality of sustainable viticulture.

27/06/2019

The potential carbon neutrality of sustainable viticulture showed through a comprehensive assessment of the greenhouse gas (GHG) budget of wine production

Sustainable viticulture allows food production with a potential carbon neutrality without exacerbating climate change: it’s the important result achieved by a study recently published on Journal of Cleaner Production (among the authors, CMCC researcher Maria Vincenza Chiriacò, IAFES – Impacts on Agriculture, Forests and Ecosystem Services Division).

The study aimed at quantify the actual impact on climate of sustainable practices applied to a grape-to-wine system in Italy. The overall budget of greenhouse gas fluxes has been assessed at wine farm level, from the vineyard to the final bottle of wine.

The study demonstrates in particular that sustainable vineyard management can generate negative biogenic emissions ( -0.27 Mg CO2eq per year per hectare) in soils and biomass, able to completely compensate anthropogenic emissions from the agronomic management (0.24 Mg CO2eq per year per hectare) resulting in a zero balance of climate-changing gases.

The carbon footprint (CF) of sustainable wine is 0,79 ± 0,14 kg CO2eq per bottle. Therefore, sustainable agricultural production can be able to completely cancel out the impact of agriculture on climate.

Highlights

 • Sustainable viticulture allows food production with a potential carbon neutrality without exacerbating climate change.

• Sustainable viticulture generates biogenic GHG fluxes that turn the agrosystem into a net carbon sink.

• Anthropogenic GHG emissions in sustainable vineyard are low and can be totally compensate by the net carbon sink.

• The carbon footprint (CF) of sustainable wine is 0,79 ± 0,14 kg CO2eq per bottle.

• Sustainable wine production has in general a lower contribution to climate change.

Abstract

Sustainable agricultural and food processing practices are often proposed as attractive strategies enabling food systems to respond to the challenges posed by climate change in terms of adaptation and mitigation. However, information on the actual contribution to climate change provided by sustainable food production systems is lacking in literature.

With the intention to contribute to a more informed debate, this study aims at quantify the actual impact on climate of sustainable practices applied to a grape-to-wine system in Italy. The overall budget of greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes is assessed at wine farm level, from the vineyard to the final bottle of wine, through an integration of methods, including the eddy covariance technique, the life cycle assessment (LCA) and the IPCC guidelines. All the components of the GHG budget have been considered: the (a) biogenic GHG fluxes and the (b) anthropogenic GHG emissions generated for the grape production as well as the (c) carbon stock change due to the vineyard management and the (d) anthropogenic GHG emissions generated by the transformation of grape into wine.

At the vineyard level, the overall GHG budget resulted to be close to zero, showing a potential carbon neutrality of sustainable viticulture: the sum of biogenic GHG fluxes (a) and the carbon stock change (c) resulted in a net carbon sink with a potential contribution to climate change mitigation of −0,27 ± 1,11 Mg CO2eq year−1 per hectare; while the anthropogenic GHG emissions (b) for the sustainable vineyard management accounted for 0,24 ± 0,05 Mg CO2eq ha−1 year−1.

The total carbon footprint (b + d) of sustainable wine is 0,79 ± 0,14 kg CO2eq per bottle, with 15% attributable to the agricultural phase and 85% to the transformation of grape into wine.

These findings indicate that sustainable wine production has in general a lower contribution to climate change. In particular, sustainable practices applied to viticulture can turn the system into a net carbon sink able to totally compensate the anthropogenic emissions for the vineyard management. Therefore, sustainable viticulture allows food production with a potential carbon neutrality without exacerbating climate change.

 

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