Lower carbon footprint from grapevine cultivation on steep slopes compared with flat terrain? A case study


In the apparent absence of carbon footprint studies of grapevine cultivation on steep slopes, the objective of this work was to quantify the difference in carbon footprint between flat and steep terrain in the vineyard. While fertiliser and plant protection chemicals are identical in vineyards on flat and steep slopes, farm vehicle usage and manual labor input varies; the latter is not accounted for in carbon footprint guidelines. For the comparison of the carbon footprint from grapevine cultivation, based on PAS 2050-1, on flat and steep terrain, a local winery in the Rhine valley (50°N) was selected, which cultivates ´Riesling´ grapes on flat and steep slopes. The carbon footprint for grapevine cultivation on steep slopes of 2990 (±450) kg CO2eq ha-1 was ca 1 t CO2eq ha-1 smaller than the 4046 (±600) kg CO2eq ha-1 for flat terrain. Grapevine cultivation on steep slopes had a ca. 35% better carbon footprint than cultivation on flat terrain; an aspect, which was assessed for the first time to our knowledge. Due to limitations of farm vehicle usage on steep slopes, machine-based farm operations are substituted by default by manual labor. The better carbon footprint for manual farm operations, however was not considered to be practicable for flat terrain, since farm workers are scarce, expensive and require ca. 50% more time for the same task in comparison with machine-based cultivation. Our study has shown that the slope of a vineyard can have a pronounced effect on its carbon footprint, but does not account for surplus labor input due to the definition in the carbon footprint guidelines.