A tool of nature for fighting pesticides
Sustainable Winegrowing: Nikos and the Horsetail
Nikos Kontaxakis is a winegrower of the “Saint August” group, participating in the Sustainable winegrowing project of FUTOURIS e.V. on Crete. Horsetail (scientific name: Equisetum arvense L.) is a common weed in many Cretan vineyards. Nikos has been a neighbor with the Horsetail for years, but he did not appreciate Horsetail at all.
- “I know this plant… it is a permanent resident around my vineyards. It can become a disturbing weed if I do not rotate the soil in proper time”, Nikos murmured once he saw horsetail on the screen, during one of the training seminars taking place in the ΛYRARAKIS Wines cellar and entitled “The use of wild plants with pest control properties in sustainable winegrowing”.
Nikos had just offered valuable information to the agricultural technicians of LOCAL FOOD EXPERTS sce, the local co-ordinators of the project; he spotted the presence of a plant species with pest control properties in the surrounding vineyards. The water extract of horsetail has a high content of silicon (Si), an element that enhances the resistance of plants in biotic (pests, diseases) and abiotic factors (water and heat stress, climatic changes, soil salinity and more) (for citation click here).
Ten kilos of horsetail was harvested by Nikos and Sotiris, one of the agronomists of the project on June 5, 2016. The horsetail was soaked in 100 liters of water in a barrel, for 15 days under the strong Cretan sun. On June 20, the water extract was cloth filtered and stored, in order to be ready for dilution (1:10) and field application.
- “Can I perform my own experimentation first? Before applying in the vineyard?” Nikos asked once the horsetail extract was ready for use. “I have a field where I cultivate my own vegetables”, he said. “My tomatoes, cucumbers and honey melons are heavily infected by fungi diseases. I was planning to uproot them, but I can spray them with horsetail. I will do that and call you back when I am ready.”
Nikos called back on July 5. “Could you visit me?” he said to Sotiris. The visit was made on July 7. Nikos took us to his vegetable garden and started describing:
- “Look! Look at the cucumbers and the honey melons… and at the tomatoes up there! I sprayed after you departed the other day! On day three, I could clearly see that the diseases had stopped expanding… on day five, the disease spots were dried off… the fungi were not active any more… on day ten the new stems were growing fine, green and vigorous. Look here! New flowers and small fruits are everywhere on the plants today!”
Nikos sprayed the horsetail water extract on his vineyard on July 10, 2016 under the instructions of the agronomists. His major concern was the fungi vine disease of powdery mildew (scientific name: Uncinula necator (Schwein) Burrill). Three more winegrowers, with seven vineyards of total surface 1,3 hectares participated in this experimental field trial. Results are expected to be recorded.
Apart from the conclusions that can be made from the results of the field trial, there is another major conclusion that the co-ordinators of the project have already make:
“Getting to know your neighbors can lead to synergies”. Nikos and the horsetail are now close friends, at least according to Nikos point of view! An ordinary weed has been turned into a valuable companion.
A tool of nature is in use.
The projects aims at developing Crete as a sustainable winegrowing region and destination in the Mediterreanean Sea.