Coelheiros is divided into cork forest, vineyards, walnut orchards, pine trees, olive trees, meadows and a herd of a thousand sheep. We know that the harmony between these systems positively impacts the culture of the vineyard, allowing it to self-regulate, with less and less external intervention.
Working towards an estate as resilient as possible in the long term, since 2015 Coelheiros began the transformation towards the practice of organic viticulture, plantation and recrafting with grape varieties better adapted to our reality, decreased production, regeneration of the cork forest among other practices.
Achieving resilience through balance – Biodiversity based sustainability model in Alentejo
Coelheiros represents a typical estate from Alentejo from 100 years ago: a mosaic of ecosystems and cultures intertwined through 800 hectares. Our agriculture philosophy is based on all our cultures working together as a self-sustaining organism, each providing service not only to itself but also to the Herdade’s ecosystem. We work towards achieving maximum resilience through the balance between cultures growing resilient vineyards that produce better grapes and consequently wines.
PROJECT STARTING DATE: 15 March 2019 | ENDING DATE: ongoing
Coelheiros’ sustainable target is to achieve maximum resilience in all its cultures, making it possible for us to be producing wines without external inputs such as watering or chemical synthesis products in a region which will most certainly be hit by global warming in the upcoming years.
Universidade de Évora
In Coelheiros it is all about increasing resilience: we feel the responsibility to preserve the natural heritage of the estate, guaranteeing its sustainability and enhancing its self-regulating capacities. We believe we have in our hands the unique opportunity to make a difference, showing that the only way to achieve future-proof resilience is through balance.
Growing resilient vineyards, we’ll produce healthier grapes and thus better wines. We are also motivated by the possibility of being able to produce wines without external inputs such as watering or conventional chemicals in a region which will most certainly be hit by global warming in the upcoming years.
The techniques we apply in Coelheiros have the final goal of increasing biodiversity in the estate – in terms of insects, birds, plants, etc – and thus achieving the perfect balance between the players that help us grow vineyards and the ones who don’t without using any outside input.
Consequently, creating synergies between all components of our environment and using the energy of the Herdade’s natural system to renew itself is paramount to us.
To help us with this, Coelheiros has partnered with Évora University in a study absolutely innovative since it applies state of the art academic knowledge to a real life estate and addresses 3 levels of biodiversity – soil, plants and insects and birds – with the goal of comparing the gains of conventional vs organic farming. It includes the study, over 3 years, of the impact of organic farming and the holistic take on farming we practice in the estate and particularly in the vineyards, comparing plots with conventional farming against plots with organic farming.
In this study with Évora University we have currently, and since 2018, 8 post-grads from Évora University studying the the following in Coelheiros:
Aligned with Évora University’s study, we use the following strategies combined with cutting edge technology to monitor (prevention) and try to intervene as little as possible:
Promote Soil Biodiversity:
Promote Fauna Biodiversity:
• By aborting insecticides in the entire estate. In Coelheiros, we reject the concept of plague. Rather we believe in promoting biodiversity: we promote the presence of a multitude of different species of insects which leads to a smaller number of individuals of each species. We are, therefore, using each insect’s species to control each other. In each vineyard, the goal is to find the optimum point between the population of auxiliary insects and the pests.we
• Development of riparian galleries. Riparian galleries are formations of native plant species in the transition zones between our cultures ecosystems with the ability to provide shelter and food for terrestrial and aquatic fauna, thus promoting the increase of biodiversity. Our riparian galleries work as “highways” of biodiversity that allow helpful insects to reach every culture.
• Implementation of bat boxes to promote bat population. Bats can eat up to 10 times their weight every night, thus helping fight the moth in the vineyard and orchard.
Promote Flora Biodiversity:
Studying our flora has allowed us to identify species that are bio indicative of the different vineyard locations we have.
Application of our biodiverse ecosystem as a development model for other agricultural initiatives.
Be aware to the continuous nature of this process, working for the long run.
There is potential por replication of this model of promoting biodiversity in every estate that has enough scale.