French Vineyards Opt for Working Horses

A feature in The Guardian reports that more than 300 vineyards in mainland France and Corsica are using draft horses in viticulture. This figure was derived from the Equivigne study carried out by the French Horse and Riding Institute in partnership with the French Wine and Vine Institute. The study found that vineyard owners opted for horses because of their contribution to soil health: they compact soil less than a tractor does, plus they can access challenging terrain and cause less damage to vines. Cultivating with horses also offers an alternative to chemical weedkillers that organic and biodynamic growers find appealing. Some vineyards are also employing vitipastoralisme, or grazing sheep in vineyards to aid with weed control and fertilization. The grazing also encourages growth of nitrogen-fixing clover and promotes water quality and soil health.