Report says ‘huge stocks’ on land could benefit wine industryA new study of carbon sequestration on 1,322 acres of Fetzer Vineyards vineyard and wild land in Mendocino County could make the chemical element a huge resource for the wine industry under California's evolving greenhouse-gas emissions accounting system.
Owners of vineyard property should get carbon-capturing credit for leaving parts of the property undeveloped for soil-friendly viticultural techniques such as composting, mulching and cover cropping, according to U.C. Davis researcher Louise Jackson, Ph.D.
"There are huge stocks of carbon in these landscapes," she said. "There's no incentive to avoid land conversion in agriculture."
Dr. Jackson, who has completed agriculture carbon-sequestration studies around the state for the California Energy Commission in the past several years, presented the study at the Green Wine Summit in Santa Rosa on Tuesday.
Her research team studied five Fetzer ranches with 1,322 acres in 30 vineyards and more than 100 blocks as well as surrounding undeveloped woodlands. The property is conservatively estimated to sequester 133 tons of carbon per acre, or 135,337 tons in tree and vine wood above ground and in up to three feet of dirt, per the Kyoto Protocols. Root volume was excluded because of the high difficulty in developing a statistical model of volume and density, Dr. Jackson said.
By comparison, Fetzer calculated its 2009 carbon footprint from direct and indirect sources, including its supply chain, to 2,102 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to Ann Thrupp, Ph.D., Fetzer's sustainability chief. The company has taken a host of measures to keep the winery's footprint down as it increased production to 3 million cases a year, including 300,000 cases of the certified-organic Bonterra brand.
Dr. Jackson was quick to note that a 10-year study is needed to verify these initial findings, thought to be the first of their kind in North America, and that there were considerable variations between the Fetzer sites studied.
"We're not going to save wildlands with carbon credits, but when property owners understand the multiple benefits of doing so they may do so," she said.
Emerging implementation of Assembly Bill 32 has largely exempted agriculture, which represents 6 percent of the total state inventory of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to Dr. Jackson.
Wildlands often are excluded from carbon sequestration research because of the "additionality" requirement, which includes risks of deforestation from a "project," she noted.
Vineyards often are excluded because of the "permanence" requirement, given that vine management can replace vineyards over time. Dr. Jackson said the Fetzer study could be a start for developing vineyard sequestration protocols, which the state's Climate Action Registry is developing.
A proposed frost-protection ordinance had its first reading before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and is set for a hearing Dec. 7, but the draft document received opposition from federal fish regulators and local environmental groups.
The draft ordinance would create a two-tier frost-protection permitting system through the county Agricultural Commissioner's office systems that use water, such as impact sprinklers, and those that don't, such as heaters and wind machines. A permit would be required for modifying or installing such systems, and a list of best-management practices would have to be followed.