Saturday, July 2, 2016

Justin Vineyards: Oak Woodlands Controversy & the Solution

June 10, 2016 by Paso Robles Daily News Editor Skye Ravy
The heated controversy over a vineyard-development project in California's Paso Robles region has taken a interesting twist now that the owners of Justin Vineyards and Winery issued an apology statement for cutting an estimated 100 acres of oak trees and promising to donate the 380-acre property to a nonprofit conservation organization and plant 5,000 new oaks on their other area properties. See Here >>  (Justin Vineyards apologizes and donates Land

When this story first broke, environmental organizations and ecology groups across California immediately jumped on the corporation hate bandwagon denouncing the Vineyards expansion. I do understand the passion and upset of another part of the natural world being dismembered. But not one of the groups made any attempts to find a solution for a fix and repair of the damage done, other than the usual call for lawsuits, legal penalty action and punitive punishment, etc. Calls also went out for major boycotts of all products produced by the Billionaire husband and wife owners of the Wonderful Company who had their life history trashed all over the internet as greedy so and sos. But again not a single group offered solutions for a correction. This is common with the environmental groups these days. Most people claiming to support an ecological movement do so mainly by joining an online Social Media Network page where actual participation is a mere clicking of a "LIKE" post, providing verbal vitriol in the comments sections, signing an online petitions, etc. I find very few actually get themselves outdoors, study nature, involve themselves in habitat restoration, etc. There are many who do this, but the majority don't. 

OK enough of the negative, now what positive corrections can be done. The main worry I saw with people calling for a halt to the work being done was that if they were completely successful in stopping the project, the next rainy season could have created terrible erorsion problems on the area in question. Fortunately that has not happened.
Photo Image by Craig Heaton
Some good news from the same source referenced above here, they said that San Luis Obispo County won’t pursue code enforcement action due to the donation of property to a conservancy and land remediation.
"The county is already working with Justin to address potential erosion and runoff issues caused by any grading violations, Bergman said. The company will need additional permits to begin remediation, and Bergman said county officials will work with Justin to quickly develop and implement plans."
Some of the concern came from the removal of vegetation on extreme steep slopes. That also concerns me, but what's interesting is that steep slope vineyards & farming in general are nothing new and have been done all over the world for centuries without problems. However, those farmers and terrace builders actually took the time, patience and effort to create a solid terraced infrastructure system that was practically meant to last forever. Of course this was done by hand and without the fast convenience of modern day mechanized equipment. The people then took their time and were very skilled at what they did. As an example, the Rhineland area of Germany is well known for it's steep slope vineyards, but no one complains about those. Take for example the beautifully designed infrastructure of these steep hillside vineyards along the Ahr Valley below. Notice the rock and stone work ? 

Image - Romantic Germany Rhineland Palatinate
A well-terraced steep hillside landscape in the
 Ahr Valley of  Germany.
For a change, what we offer as advice to Justin Vineyards in replacing the Oaks, planting new Grape Vineyards and dealing with the present water crisis issues ?
As I've written previously, there are clearly more eco-friendly ways of doing things, but most modern day folks need to be deprogrammed and re-educated as to how this should be done. We all went to conventional institutions of learning and were taught at the time the conventional science-based industrial methods of quickly acquiring a profit with minimum amount of input. We were all taught this was just good business sense and modern scientific innovation was going to help us accomplish this goal. Except this same science has brought us the ruined natural world & climate disruptions we all experience today and hardly anyone is pointing this out with the exception of a handful of science researchers and other dedicated people who understand the real issues. 
Oak Habitat Restoration
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Since the Oak Tree removal was the main point of protest, it's only logical and fair to begin here. One of the more fascinating things I've found recently with the planting innovation referenced in the above photograph is that California Native Plants establishment can be incredibly easy. I first noticed in Southern California how and under what conditions most all types of native plant communities expand and/or restore themselves to be mainly during extreme wet weather events like an El Nino. My very first observation was the wetter periods between the years 1978-1983. I wrote about Bajadas and the extreme flooding events which allowed massive saturation over entire alluvial fans. One such Bajada was just northwest of the city of San Jacinto California where Portrero Creek drainage from Beaumont and points north from the San Bernardino Mountains runs through a narrow slit in the foothills of the lower San Bernardino Mountains and striaght into the San Jacinto River. This is easily seen from Hwy 79 & Gilman Springs Rd. My original curiosity for some years prior to this El Nino wet period was how do single or grouped California Sycamores & various Oaks over in and around the city of San Bernardino in those large large boulder strewn flood plains towards the north & west towards L.A. which drain from the Angeles National Forest, how do such huge trees manage to establish themselves and thrive when first hand observation reveals they were never even remotely close to any permanent running streams or other water sources ? In the western United States, where such streams do not exist, such trees need a good permanent water source to emerge and maintain themselves during the hot dry summers.

It was the 1983 Flood in San Jacinto Valley where I saw first hand how massive amounts of Cottonwoods, Sycamores, Willows, etc established themselves. Years after that only the strongest survived down to the present. But I found this also to be true of other type of plant community ecosystems like forest tree movement intrusion into the Chaparral Plant community where Oaks and Pines utilized Chamise and other chaparral plants as Nurse companions via the planting by ScrubJays. The Groasis Waterboxx as far as I have carefully observed and researched replicates this perfectly. I've provided some links and videos done by Ranchers and University eXtensions in establishing various species of Oaks, Elderberry and other California native plants within the same central California region where Justin Vineyard & Winery is located The only other extremely important thing to do besides the planting with these devices is inoculating the Oak seedlings at time of planting with Ecto-Mycorrhizal Fungi and it's imperative that Pisolithus tinctorius be the specific fungi choice utilized. 

Green news from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Other References - Oaks planted using Groasis Waterboxx
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Pest and Diseases of Southern California Oaks
UCCE studies a Dutch invention for regenerating trees and shrubs on oak woodland
Lessons Learned from the Bajadas (Alluvial Fans) Report: the Groasis waterboxx ©
Oak tree planting using the Groasis Waterboxx in California

UCCE studies a Dutch invention for regenerating trees and shrubs on oak woodland

Image - Hunter Industries
Once the Oak tree seedlings are planted and established, a simple deep pipe irrigation system (preferrably installed within the target area ahead of Oak seedling planting), should be periodically turned on in order to counter the negative effects of an unreliable hydrological cycling thanks to climate change. The rules have changed now and mankind is responsible for that  change. Again, small seedlings should ONLY be used for successful deep root development. I don't care about five gallon six+ foot tall specimens which are often recruited as some type of 'eye candy' to appease the rabin activist protestors. Do it correctly the first time around and it will save you money. Also the re-established Oak woodland ecosystems will develop much better in succession with other chaparral plants like California Coffeeberry, California Holly (Toyon), Manzanita, etc which should be used as companion plants for faster ecosystem establishment and long term ecosystem health. You simply cannot just plant oak trees the conventional way all by themselves. They do better with nurse companions and that is what biomimetics is all about.

Image taken from

Natural Companion Plants - Oaks & California Coffeeberry
I'll offer further input on the why of deep pipe irrigation below. But Justin Vineyards, please take note of the natural companion relationship above and I'll explain the reason why below. Replanting oak trees to satisfy an offical legal agreement and damage control is not enough. You have to do it right and do it smart. It is good business sense and aesthetically more pleasing. An important note here. If you fail to inoculate with the proper mycorrhizal species mix, your Oak restoration project will fail or at best be many years delayed. 
Vineyard Establishment the old fashioned way
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The example photo above is of the groasis waterboxx is being done to reintroduce newer vines as replacements for those that have died or were found unproductive. The process here will establish vines very quickly as opposed to the old conventional methods and provide a deeper root infrastructure which will greatly aid in survival with very little water needed. 
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I love the Canary Islands because it feels so much like home. The islands are very much involved in the vineyards and wine making business. We've even gone on some wine tasting tours there. Below is an example of dryland vineyards on the volcanic desert island Vineyards of Lanzarote. This region hardy gets any rain, yet look at the results. It's not about irrigation, it's about planting techniques and training these grapevine roots to grow deeper. It's not the subsoil moisture, but rather the capillary action movement of water within the soil which hydrates plants.

The Volcanic Desert Vineyards of Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain
Reference Links and Videos for Establishing Vineyards
The Groasis orchard capillary drill makes planting holes between the vine rows aside of the tractor
Groasis Waterboxx experiment at Celler Burgos Porta - Mas Senén Priorat

The vines were planted  beginning of July 2010, the film was end of October 2010 at Will Bucklin's "Old Hill Ranch." Incredible root development on these grapevines growing straight downwards in that short period of time of only four months.  Here is the video link:
Robert Mondavi Winery with Groasis waterboxx grape planting experiments in Napa Valley California 
Grape planting with the Groasis Technology to save water at Will Bucklin's Old Hill Ranch
How does this system save Water ? How does this deeper root development where hydration takes place in subsoil layers as opposed to Drip Irrigation ?
Illustration - Wikimedia - (2006)

I really dislike the illutrative layout above of a sophisticated $-expensive-$ drip irrigation system. While I understand it does save water as opposed to conventional flood irrigation and sprinkler irrigation as practiced in the central valley mega-vineyards, this should not be attempted in Paso Robles. The photo to the right is a simple animation of a deep pipe irrigation, though primitive and simple, even a child gets this. The main problem I have with drip is constant ongoing checking and maintenance. Plus, valuable water on the surface of the soil still heats up and evaporates. Water on the surface also encourages annual weeds (ruderals) which compete for both water and nutrients. There is also the problem of wild animals desperate in these drought years destroying drip system componants looking for water. It's not their fault as they as desperate for survival and act on instinct. While the illustration above shows a simplified  garden version of a hand watering practice, below here is another illustration which shows a concept created by irrigation manufacturer Hunter Industries who has developed a deep pipe root irrigation system which I have a feeling many have not taken much advantage of as yet. Mostly because they do not understand the basic fundamentals and principles of how most whole plant ecosystems work, function and operate. The fact is every single agricultural enterprise should be replicated with these very native plant root infrastructures in mind. 

Here on the left is Hunter's complete design concept with PCV pipe junctional fittings, branch pipe sections with goose neck design, internal bubbler fittings, etc, etc, etc. Frankly the design is great with the exception that I would prefer a solid pipe as a sleeve which would not have the various holes spaced all the way down the pipe and be  perhaps a meter in length where medium sized crushed gravel were used at the bottom of the hole to aid in percolation. The solid sides would also not allow fine sand or silt to infiltrate as would a mesh type design. I understand the idea of water percolating from top to bottom, but truthfully you only need water at the very bottom a meter down. The plants through the phenomena of hydraulic life & redistribution will supply the deeper available stored water to move upwards through their root systems into the mcorrhizal fungal network which in turn are connected to other vines or perennial plants in a mutual cooperation interface. All of this is programmed and encoded within the informational content of all these living organism's DNA. Up until now this has all been ignored by the industrial science business models which have made an obscene profit off keeping the status quo. To this very day they continue to fight against this type of research. Anything Justin Vineyards & Winery can do to keep their vines well balanced and the fruiting zone aerated with dappled sunlight will also help the grapevine's internal pest-management mechanisms to be firing on all pistons. Grapevines that are excessively vigorous (excessive water and nitrogen by conventional means) are likely to be more attractive to leaf hoppers, powdery mildew and bunch rot. No chemicals necessary here, it's all about getting deprogrammed and re-educated. The money savings from not purchasing ANY synthetic chemical inputs will also be money in your pockets. Take a close look at the picture below and meditate on it's true meaning. Most wineries understand this. Less water is most often better.

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High skin ratio grapes produce wines with more concentration 
“we started to reduce the use of water in the vineyard [and] we got to amazing results. 1.) The vine can live with less water of what most of the people think, 2.) when you used less water, the size of the cluster and berries decrease, so finally you get more concentration and equilibrium in your wines.”
Aurelio Montes -

Image - El Cajon Historical Society
The wine industry's more quality conscious growers are not necessarily interested in the mega-quantity volume producing yields like those of a Boone's Farm or a Gallo jug wine business model, but rather a quality grape which will produce more flavour. Huge grape clusters with bulging grape diameters are not necessarily what they want as the image above from Wine Folly illustrates. So a vineyard can actually do better on less water and produce a finer wine quality grape. One thing I always found interesting about some of those old historical grape growing photographs like the one to the right which shows a man at a roadside stand selling those large heavy clusters of grapes in early 1900s El Cajon Valley California where I grew up, they actually did this without much irrigation at all if any. They mostly dryland farmed as you can see here in the other historical photograph below. Many people have no clue as to how grapes were grown in the early days of California agricultural enterprises early on. Most grape vineyards were dryland farms and most older folks have probably even forgotten that. Growing up in El Cajon Valley in the early 1960s, there were still several huge tracts of land where free standing grape vines existed, produced vines and grapes although the land had been long abandoned and sold off by previous owners to speculative land developers. Areas east of Los Angeles Like Ontario, Fontana, etc were almost entirely free standing dryland famed vineyards with deeply rooted grapevines. These continued to produce leaves and grapes long after the land was sold and vacated to land developers.

El Cajon California was once 48,000+ acres of Agriculture.
Most of that was free standing grape Vineyard dryland farming

There was an Aqueduct flume which was built to bring irrigation water from the Cuyamaca Mountains in the east to El Cajon Valley's citrus orchards which were also plentiful. But I doubt there was enough water for the 1000s upon 1000s of acres of vineyards. Today in many parts of the globe like Spain, they also dryland farm vineyards like the one in the photograph below. What is interesting about El Cajon Valley is that even to this day the water table is extremely high. Water can be hit 10' below the surface. Water was present at 10' when they test drilled at El Cajon Valley High School in the early 1970s prior to building the commercial pool and there was also some test drilling miles north of the school for water contamination  studies in the early 2000s at my former place of employment as a landscaper between Bradly Avenue and Greenfield Drive where water was also hit at the 10' (little over 3 meters) below ground level. These vines are capable of reaching and utilizing water at those depths if trained properly in the begining. But again, even if they do not hit the water table, it's the soil's capillary action which moves moisture upwards which hydrate plants.

Image - (Spain)
Deep-Pipe Irrigation Posts & Resources
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks
Hunter Industries: Root Zone Watering System
Hunter Industries: Deep Root Zone Specs
Climate Change vs Wine: A Snapshot of Year 2050 
Real World Sustainability without Insecticides, Herbicides, Fungicides and Sythetic Fertilizers & going full blown "Organic" ???

What's the difference between organic and inorganic wines ? In a nut shell, organic means to limit the human intervention during the vineyard farming and wine production process. The 'organic' label philosophy starts in the actual Vineyards where zero to very limited use of chemicals such as pesticides or fertilizers are allowed to be used for the vineyard management processes. During the wine production process, the organic wine makers usually will not allow or will use only a very limited quantity of synthetic componants for the fermenting, bottling or cellaring choices. Organic wines usually have more characters, reflect better the terroir [environmental cues such as soil & climate - loosely translated epigenetics] and they are unique to other batches of wines in terms of vintages, origins, winemaking methods, aging techniques, etc. If Justin Vineyards & Winery want to create an image make over, then organic is the way to go. Over here in Europe, my wife and I always purchase an organically produced wine and I can tell you the popularity is growing. It does matter if it costs a little more. The actual price is actually not that much more expensive. But it's what we choose.

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The idea behind companion planting here with regards numerous perennials and mycorrhizal annuals is not only to attract pollinators, but also mycorrhizal associations on grape vine rootsystems which will tap into the nitrogen fixing micro-organisms, but also mycorrhizal fungi's ability of mining the soils for nutrients which they accomplish very efficiently. They can increase a plant's nutrient and water uptake by anywhere from 200% to 800% depending on the species and soil conditions. I'll post some other links in references below this section. I'm seeing more and more vineyards incorporating numerous flowering perenials into their vineyard systems and it's not only smart, it's beautifully attractive as a whole. But there is more to this infrastructure. Aside from mycorrhizal fungi colonizing and creating a strong interface between these other plants and the grape vines, they also attract the beneficial pollinators who are also pest predators.

Image - Hydroponics Online

Earth's Natuural Pest Control

Image - Wikipedia
A huge part of being an organically run vineyard is NOT using ANY synthetic or Organic chemical sprays in preventing pests from decimating your vines. Did you all pay attention to where I stated even "organic" sprays ? Technically the official organic verification gang allows such chemicals if they are considered to be "100% Natural." But that wouldn't exactly biomimic how the natural world works when keeping balance within any ecosystem. See this small pic of a parasitic wasp ? This is an Aleiodes indiscretus wasp parasitizing gypsy moth caterpillar. Many Vineyards in California and other parts of the world are purposely planting many pollinator attracting plants for the purpose of attracting these little (almost invisible) insectt helpers. These predatary insects do not feed on the pests they hunt and kill, but their larva do. The adults however do need pollen and nectar to keep themselves healthy and functioning. That's why the flowering perenials, annuals and native chaparral shrubs are so important. The conventional Industrial Agricultural practice is to sterilize the ground of all farms. Seriously look at any farm and the only plants are those crops on industrial medical lifesupport. And it costs large amounts of money to keep that type of a system going aisde from the negative side effects to the environment. Let's consider the importance of a few beneficial chaparral shrubs that most folks have never considered.

Image - Las Pilitas Nursery (Bert Wilson)

Image - MotherNatureBackyard
This picture above is California Coffeeberry. In a way, it does look a bit like a photo of a coffee tree with green foliage and different coloured berries. But aside frombeing very ornamental and attractive, it's value is in it being one of the earliest bloomers (March) for a chaparral native. Unlike the other flowering plants we've seen in all the photographs in vineyards, this evergreen shrub has the most inconspicuous flowers you'll ever observe. But when it's dull olive yellow-green flowers do appear, what causes you to pause and take note is the loud humming coming from those shrubs. Every species of bee, wasp, fly, mosquito, beetle, gnat, etc, etc, etc are stumbling over each other on these flower clusters hoping to get a taste of whatever it is that is driving them nuts. On close inspection however, you will see tonnes of the smallest and tiniest predatory wasps who've never even imagined existed. When people in general follow the expert recommendations of using those conventional science-based synthetic sprays to kill the target pests, the chemical has no clue as to what the target is and obliterates almost everything else that is present. That's why our planet is in such a mess and why other more responsible science research is making folks take notice. Mainly because they are forced to now.

Image - Las Pilitas Nursery

Image - Eden by the Bay
The next bloomer is around the month of late May through most of June to July. The California Holly or Toyon is also a beautiful ornamental shrub which is evergreen, has large clusters of bright red berries in Fall through Winter which makes it also a nice addition for Justin Vineyards & Wines to incorporate within the native Oak tree plantings. You simply cannot plant these Oaks by themselves, you need to create a living mechanized biological infrastructure all working in mutual cooperation with one another. But knowing various plants, their blooming schedule and great companion plant abilities, not to mention the wildlife food sources which will help distract them from your grapes will be a plus. But there are other chaparral plants that don't bloom till July/August like Redshank or Ribbonwood. There are also some ornamental native Mediterranean plants which actually fit like a glove in a vineyard theme.

Image - Saint Castor Estate

Image - Ale Etiquetas
This one is a perfect match for the vineyards and general landscape around the buildings. There are so many types and varieties of Lavenders. They can bloom from Spring to Fall. Many of them also do very well here in Sweden which is something I never thought I'd see because of the damp cold. But they also thrive well in hot Summertime heat. I once saw a documentary on one Southern California News station where the reporter was interviewing a Northern California Vineyard grower. He incorporated lots of Lavender around his vineyards just because of their long blooming ability which attracted all sorts of beneficial predatory wasps which required the nectar as a food source. The man said his operation no longer used insecticides, but they still used fungiicdes for things like powdery mildew on grape leaves. However, some mycorrhizal fungi present in some of the micro-organisms blends out there add a couple of species of fungi, Trichoderma virens and Trichoderma harzianum, into the mix as they have the ability send a chemical message up into their plant host through the roots they colonize which flips an epigenetic switch to turn on and kickstart the grapewine's immune system. This wards off the mildew problems rendering fungicides useless. I'll post a link below. Many large industrial agricultural operations in the Central & San Joaquin Vallets are planting Chaparral hedges and Mounds bordering their fields so as not to have to use insecticides. Believe it or not, good science is being revealed despite the propaganda attempts by the agro-chemical industry that the world's farmers cannot live without them. Now for one of the best resources available for native plants and extremely close to Justin Vineyards.

Image - Bert Wilson

Las Pilitas California Native Plant Nursery
Salvia Celestial Blue with masses of purple flowers
Great Local Native Plant Resource for Justin Vineyards & Winery & everyone else
Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in Santa Margaritaa, California
Attracting Wild Bees & Wasps to Landscapes & Farms is the best Insurance Policy
How Many Beneficial Functions & Services can be found in just one Fungi Species ?
 Mycorrhizal Fungi run the Largest Mining Operation in the World
How the microbiome mines the soil for nutrients & how their demise will domino effect all other lifeforms 
Update August 2nd 2016 - Another reason going the Organic route will help improve Justin Winery's image
 An analysis of 74,000 blind taste-tests by professional wine reviewers shows that Eco-Certified Wines get higher ratings than regular wines. 
Neville Nel/Flickr
UCLA Newsroom: "Do eco-friendly wines taste better?"
Finally Terracing that Steep Bare Hillside
Image - Taylor Vineyards and the Duro Valley Portugal

The photograph above points out the direction Justin Vineyards should go. They've certainly got the capital and resources available to them. The course here now is literal soil damage control and rebuilding a reputation. Heading in a eco-green organic and sustainable course is the way to go. They could show their neighbours how to proceed and I kid you not, the average small weekend ranchette landowner collectively do far worse than those large businesses put together. So even here Justin Vineyards could set a precedent and local example to be replicated by other vineyards. I like the arrangement of terrace size here in the photo which allows three or four grapevine rows on a terraced hillside. You could incorporate at the start of your vineyard project after terracing is completed & before planting, two or three rows of underground deep pipe irrigation network, only to be used after the biodegradable Groasis Waterboxx Cocoon has accomplished it's work of forcing the grapevine root systems to grow straight down deep into the subterranean soil layers. It does not matter that a deep pipe system which would place water into the soil two or three foot down, because the process of hydraulic life and redistribution will pull water towards the surface lateral roots, connecting the mycorrhizal fungi and reconnecting also with other vines and unrelated perennial plants as borders. This creates a mutually cooperative selfsustaining living system. 

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Of course they could go the cheap route and save money by simple mechanical shaping and terracing, but for me there are drawbacks to this. First there is the small slopes which are still subject to possible future erosion and also weed control issues. All that costs maintenance money. A terraced rock wall system allows for more precious space to be utilized aside from providing less weed opportunities which offer an offensive spring boards for weed seeds to infect the vineyard system itself, further costs for herbicides and/or workers weed whacking them with a power trimmer. The photo above is from Spain. The Portugese company Taylor Vineyards on their website also have simple soil terraces without the rock walls and the offer advice on how the annual plants also provide a measure of pollinator attraction in the Springtime, but there are ways around that. Anyway here is Taylor Vineyards link to sustainable Viticulture: 
Taylor Vineyards - Sustainable Viticulture
As I explained above, Lavender is an excellent summer flowering shrub which not only attracts and sustains beneficial predatory pollinators, but adds an element of Mediterranean visual to the overall vineyard landscape theme. If the rock retaining walls were shorter in height and had a shorter slope behind and above them, then this area could be planted in two rows of Lavender. It would also create a weed barrier screen and fill in space where such companion planting would be a perfect fit. They could also be deep pipe irrigate here as well.

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As I stated at the beginning, not one militant environmental activist organization offered any sustainable viable ecosolutions for Justin Winery to correct the mistakes made other than the usual activist vitriol, threats of lawsuits, online petition grand standing and product boycotts in hopes that the Wonderful Company would have all it's business ventures ruined and shutting their doors. This information I've provided can be used by anyone out there reading with an ecological passion for the natural world and growing things, not just the poeple from the Paso Robles winery. Hopefully something positive will be accomplished in Paso Robles without further negativity. Here is an excellent example of good results using mycorrhizal fungi

"When I visited the Rosella Winery in 2011, Sandi took me out to see her section of Zinfindel grapes. They had been struggling for years and the owners were considering tearing them out. I asked her to give MycoApply® a chance before starting over. Even though a surface soil application is not best for grapes I knew with time and with a couple applications the inoculum would work down into the rooting zone with the winter rains on this rocky soil. Here is her story."
Dr Mike Amaranthus
Below is a copy of the email letter Sandi Garoutte to Mike Amaranthus thanking him for the advice not to tear out their unproductive Zinfandel vineyards and give MycoApply a try. Here is what resulted below.
"Hello Dr. Mike, 
Rosellas-Vineyard-Winery-Wine-Tasting-Sign  Just wanted to follow up on our conversation regarding the application of Mycorrhizal Applications Mycorrhiza on our vineyard.  If I misuse the application of the word, I do apologize.  Mycorrhiza/Mycorrhizae/Mycorrhizal, it’s confusing!  
We have a vineyard in Southern Oregon on the Missouri Flat Bench.  I am aware that you have done extensive soil testing in this area.  After showing you our Zinfandel, you thought that there was a hardpan layer preventing the vines from getting their roots deeper in the soils.  
Due to the rocky soil and the fact that we Dry Farm, the Zinfandel, in particular, has always struggled.   So we took your advise and applied the first Mycorrhizae to all the soils in 2012.  Placing a tablespoon at the base of each plant and letting the Fall Rains wash it in to the roots. Then we applied the 2nd Mycorrhizae to the Zinfandel in Spring of 2014 and most recently the Spring of 2015 during the rains.   
The upper block of Zinfandel is now on it’s 9th leaf.  We noticed a marked change after the first application in 2012.  The subsequent Spring of 2013, the vigor of the vines and the fruit set and were much improved.  So we set out to apply again in the Spring of 2014.  The vines did so well that in a heavy wind one entire row was blown over, trellis and all because it was so heavy with fruit!   
Indeed, last year was a record year for growth the Zinfandel section of the vineyard, the rest of the vineyard has definitely benefitted,  and most notably in the Zin.  The girth of the trunks almost doubled.  They went from 3″ to about 6″.  We have again applied Mycorrhizae this Spring.  We look forward to watching the vines continue to survive. 
We are entering a palpable drought.  It will affect us all.  I am so amazed at the symbiosis of these tiny little creatures with the root systems of plants.  I admire your knowledge and dedication to the production of this product.  We look forward to using it through the years.  
Kindly, Sandi Garoutte (The link to this letter on is below)

MycoApply® Improves Zinfandel Grape Harvest in Southern Oregon - Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc.

Update - July 21, 2016 - Vineyards Part II 
Dryland Farming, Vineyards & why Plants prefer Subterranean Water Sources
Here are a couple more links


  1. You know, we've been to most of the Paso Robles wineries. I believe Tablas Creek does landscape theirs better than Justin. Justin isn't one of the wines we enjoy. Tablas Creek, on the other hand...yes!

    In the old days, wineries used to plant yes, lavender. What a concept! They were much more eco-friendly than the big, commercial wineries these days.

    My husband's sister works for Burgess Cellars and we spent many summer days up there. Roses were planted at the end of each row and there were hawks near the reservoir. Very relaxing.

    Have you seen photos of the Gallo owned vineyards? Straight lines. They use lasers to plant the vines. Ugh. Horrible. NOT a weed in sight. Hmmmm....I wonder what kind of chemicals are in the soil?

    Sometimes "the old ways are best."
    Good article. I'm going to sit down now and read the entire thing!~
    ~Cheryl Ann~ By the way, I throw my coffee grounds around my garden and I don't use pesticides. I use DE on the fire ants. OMG! A rabbit just hopped into the garden!!!

    1. There are so many easier ways of doing things and it's sad that certain things like drought force most people to change their ideas and practices. But this Grosis Waterboxx is fascinating and the fastest way of establishing plants and getting them independent that I have ever seen. The Dutch company even got several Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs both Elementary and High School kids involved in restoration projects which I thought was kool.

      Groasis Waterboxx: Desert Greening, Root Infrastructure Development, Water Savings, Teaching Kids Nature, etc, etc, etc


  2. By the way, I'm NOT a soil engineer or chemist, just an average middle-aged woman. HOWEVER, I do come from a LONG line of farmers, on both sides of my family and my maternal grandfather could grow ANYTHING. I've managed to develop a nice little garden out front here in the desert. I have Tithonia, lavender, and blue penstamon, as well as sunflowers. I have finches, doves, and a family of mockingbirds who visit (even a rabbit this morning!). I have hummingbirds and yes, even a Cooper's hawk who visits about twice a week. I don't use pesticides and we have geckos. One time I found two bulging eyes next to the front faucet. It was a toad! I love having a natural (i.e. chemical free) zone. I also have plenty of horse manure and I make a horse manure tea for the bougainvilla. OOPS! The Cooper's hawk just flew by and all the birds disappeared!!!
    ~Cheryl Ann~

    1. The science behind soil building and feeding is interesting. As are the capillary water movement and physics through the soil pores. I've never used any pesticides ever in gardens. Been that way since the early 1960s when I started my first garden. Just no need. But most people buy into all the science-based industrial toxins and the propaganda that human beings actually need them to produce food.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Nicholas, you may well be able to relate to all of this in Atascadero


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