New Zealand dwarf pigs are better than sheep for weeding?  Comprehensive test in champagne

New Zealand dwarf pigs are better than sheep for weeding? Comprehensive test in champagne

An animal experiment has been underway since mid-January on a plot of vineyard in Champagne with dwarf pigs from New Zealand. Their origins, they are mild and more effective than sheepskin for weeding.

The entire yard, or nearly, will be used for the vineyard. The horse that moves the grape cages, then the sheep to get rid of weeds without herbicides or polluting machines, but with mixed success and even the geese! Now pigs appear at the foot of the vineyards. Attention, not just any. These are the friendly, dwarf pigs, with cream or even light brown coats, that originate from New Zealand. Two samples have been sniffed in a plot of vineyards in Champagne, in Marne, since mid-January 2023.

It all started with an observation made by viticulture and soil specialists. It is not easy to find the best method, both ecological and economical, to control thistles and other “weeds” in rows. Away from this. Especially since the soil of the foothills of Champagne must not be damaged. Some mechanical machines are very heavy Sheep winemakers tested. Sometimes with good surprises and refreshing floors. But the sheep are capricious and, above all, they can attack the young shoots of vines.

Faced with this situation, Olivier Zebec, an innovative agricultural and wine consultant based in Marne, in the center of the Champagne AOC, became aware of a particular breed of pig. The domestic Mahori pigs, called “kunkon”. “If they love sheep, but all year round, I said to myself, even better. In addition, they eat the roots, preferring the aboveground parts of the vine. It is great for removing thornsherbal st. Above all, because of its size, it does not turn over the ground like a pig on a roof. It’s very movingAn expert of 20 years, originally from Avize (Marne), this INRA-trained agronomist in Montpellier also knows that every environmental grazing experience is closely monitored. Returning to Champagne for a few years, he measures environmental issues and also notes the effects of pollution of all kinds in nature, and he wants his stone to contribute to the building.

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The expert posted this experience regarding a champagne house on social networks and was inundated with calls from professionals. mired in success. “I first started in Bordeaux in 2022. We’ve seen very good results“. Still compared to sheep.”She shears a sheep, but not always efficiently. Not 100% of the plot. The problem is that when the vine grows, they prefer young shoots, so they have to be removed.” says in New Zealand, “We put electric collars on them, we’re not far from animal abuse… Some even have gags on them. It’s awful, all so they don’t eat the vine.”

Agronomist, oenologist training, man of science and terroir in contact with an innovative agricultural campus, acre (co-founded by Xavier Niel) getting wind of these animals and their potential. By participating in innovation arbitration panels. “I saw that they were little dwarves, and they had a special feature: they could not lift their heads. Therefore, do not attack the vines in height.. So Olivier Zebic brings some of them from the other side of the planet to test their talent in Bordeaux. “Something must be done, I said to myself, I am based in Reims, so obviously I started talking about it, at conferences. At the Viti Wine Show in Epernay. Many winegrowers were interested and even amused.”

Among them is the Bonnaire champagne, which is located in Cramant, on the Côte des Blancs, a region famous for its vineyards. “First grazing session in Champagne for Kunekune pigs on our plot “Les Terres des Buissons” in Cramant. Due to their unique conformation, these sows provide a potential alternative to mechanical weeding. Continued”writes home on Facebook. The winemaker in question, Jean-Etienne Bonnier, maintains that this is an experience that deserves some perspective. But it arouses interest and curiosity.

“I would like this to be final, he tells us , Because it is an alternative to soil compaction, it is much better than mechanical substrate. It is more environmental. Even if you have to feed and transport pigs. It is interesting, because the work can be done delicately, without damaging the vines. With tractors, you can do damage, while the Kunekune pig will not go deep into the ground. These animals are looking for the roots of the impostor. But we will remove them as soon as the buds come out. We will not take any risks. We will go until the end of March. It will then be necessary to see the efficiency of the work. This technique has never been attempted in champagne. It will also be necessary to see if it will not damage the installations, and the ratchet (What remains of the vine after uprooting it).. We have many interested colleagues. A neighbor even asked if we had anything for sale, but no, it’s experimental. With sheep, there is a technical quandary. Even if it’s better than machine weeding.”.

A life-size test waiting for its results, because it can be used as a school. “I think we should stop the herbicides, Olivier Zebic continues. But the alternative is plowing, an ecological disaster, because it destroys it. We have vegetation, but we have to control this grass. So these dwarf pigs could be a solution for the future. The further you go, I think it’s fix, sheep, average, expensive… It’s good for Instagram but it’s not enough.

I want to create a series of dwarf pigs in champagne, to offer a solution, if it works.

Olivier Zebeck

Agricultural advisor

At the moment, only two Kunekune pigs are grazing in Cramant, near Epernay. Six more are due to arrive on February 8 from Bordeaux. “We organize reproduction. I want to create a chain of champagne to offer a solution, if that works.” Realizing that this is only a move, Olivier Zebic thinks it is Better to put ten pigs at once than two. With possible effect on mold. “Because this parasitic disease is kept in winter in dead leaves and eaten by pigs! It’s a personal assumption. There is also real interest from wine growers. If we work on the soil, we risk its erosion and in the context of climate change, there isn’t much left.

Asked about cost, the dwarf pig weeding system wants to be competitive. It will cost no more than others, but no less. However, it will take some time before clear scientific conclusions can be drawn. The Champagne Wine Growers Association (AVC) recently mentioned points to work on in the medium term, and tillage is one of them. The file remains open, and there will be a sequel. Pig who denies it.

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