, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 185-191

The simplification of traditional vineyard based agroforests in northwestern Portugal: some ecological implications

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Abstract

In northwestern Portugal, peasants have developed complex vineyard (Vitis vinifera) systems comprising agroforests composed of host trees, vines, annual crops and in some cases animals. Until recently these vineyards suffered very few pest problems and received relatively low pesticide loads. In the last few years, new policy and market forces have prompted the conversion of many of these systems to monoculture thereby decreasing the biodiversity inherent to traditional vineyards. Many scientists are concerned that with accelerating rates of vineyard simplification insect pest and disease problems may increase due to lack of habitat and resources for natural enemies or to a concentration of preferred host plants for specific pathogens and herbivores. During the growing seasons of 1997 and 1999 we conducted several farm surveys of traditional agroforestry and modernized, monoculture farms. We conducted field measurements to elucidate trends in insect pest and disease incidence in both types of vineyards. Our surveys revealed that monoculture vineyards exhibited lower number of species of predators and parasites and correspondingly higher densities of two grape herbivores (Lobesia botrana and Empoasca vitis) than diverse vineyard agroforests. Botrytis bunch rot seemed more prevalent in the monoculture systems, which also received increased fungicide applications when compared to the traditional vineyards. Although preliminary, our studies suggest that new vineyard designs may be more productive, but such gains occur at the expense of biodiversity and agricultural sustainability, reflected on higher pest vulnerability. Further agroecological studies are needed to account for the full ecological costs of the modernization of traditional vineyard agroforests.

This revised version was published online in November 2005 with corrections to the Cover Date.