Cornflowers and nasturtiums are just a couple of the cover crops we are currently planting.
Although Bele Casel is not technically considered a “biodynamic” fine wine grape farmer, the winery does employ a number of elements that biodynamic wine grape farmers embrace through throughout the vegetative cycle.
Of course, Bele Casel is an organic farmer. In other words, no chemicals are used in the vineyards. And that means no herbicides or pesticides. And organic farming practices are central to the biodynamic approach to farming.
But while the Ferraro family, owner of the Bele Casel winery and vineyards, does not use the manure “preparations” and lunar calendar schedule prescribed by the biodynamic approach and philosophy, it does use composting (often using manure, similar to the biodynamic preparations). And it does use cover crops or “green manure,” another tenet of the biodynamic mindset in grape farming.
Cover crops, which are often legumes and flowers that are planted between the rows, help to do a number of things in the vineyard. One thing they do is that they compete with the vines for water and nutrients. This helps to give the vines more “vigor,” and as a result of this stress, they make richer fruit.
But cover crops also do something fundamental, a key element of organic and biodynamic farming: They help to sustain biodiversity in the vineyards and make the soil much more healthy (i.e., nitrogen rich).
This year the Ferraro family will be planting flowers like nasturtiums and cornflowers in between the rows of vines. The packets in the photo above are seeds for those flowers and as you can see from the little green organic certification tag on the bottom of the packets, these flowers are recommended for use in “pre-Alpine” areas where growers have opted for organic practices in the fields and vineyards.
The cornflowers in particular are renowned for the fact that bees are attracted to them. Indeed, they are often planted to increase bee life and activity in farmland.