“Toward Zero Herbicides” project: Hennessy and 16 winegrowers in AOC Cognac region team to develop new sustainable winegrowing model

The “30,000 Farms: Toward Zero Herbicides” group met for the first time last July 28 at Hennessy’s La Bataille vineyard in Saint-Preuil to launch an initiative to test practices that could ultimately eliminate the use of herbicides. The target for this ambitious initiative is 2021 for Hennessy’s own vineyards, and progressively in the following years for the cognac maker’s partner winegrowers. To achieve this objective, sixteen vineyards will test alternatives to chemical weedkillers over the next five years. The results of the pilot project will then be shared with 1,600 winegrowers, who will benefit from support to introduce viable practices that respect the environment in their vineyards.

In spring 2019, Maison Hennessy marked a historic milestone by announcing that it would encourage and support efforts by its 1,600 partners winegrowers to completely eliminate the use of chemical herbicides. A little over a year later, the collaborative project “Toward Zero Herbicides” was officially launched on July 28 at Saint-Preuil, in the Charente region. The project has been included in the “30,000 Farms” program, part of France’s nationwide Ecophyto II plan. Initiated by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food, this program aims to recruit 30,000 farms committed to actively pursuing a transition to agroecological practices by 2021.

At the local level, 16 winegrowers representative of the different types of farms in the AOC Cognac region and who have expressed an early interest in making this transition to sustainable winegrowing, will work with Hennessy for the coming five years. This working group has two main objectives. First of all, it will conduct research and develop weed control practices and techniques that do not require herbicides and reduce the use of chemical plant protection products.

Secondly, the “Toward Zero Herbicides” group will share its results with 1,600 of Hennessy’s partner winegrowers in order to cascade implementation of viable long-term solutions able to ensure both production levels and grape quality. Deployment of these best practices at the vineyards will be promoted through demonstrations and technical support. Hennessy has also committed to providing assistance for all its partners to help them obtain Cognac Environmental Certification by 2025.

To reach these ambitious objectives, the working group will receive support from Hennessy experts, as well as outside specialists in mechanization, agronomy, management of plant health, biodiversity and other areas. The group has defined a roadmap that designates a specific central theme for each year.

Following the analysis phase in 2020, the pilot vineyards will focus on mechanical work under the vine in 2021, followed by cover cropping in 2022, robotics and driverless tractors in 2023, and culminating with a detailed project review and presentation of results to partner winegrowers in 2024.

© Christophe Barraud / Hennessy

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