Integrated Pest Management Systems: Do They Effectively Reduce Pesticide Residues in Wine?

As a way to reduce the levels of chemical pesticides in the environment, grape growers and other agricultural product farmers have been implementing more organic and sustainable farming methods, including what is known as “Integrated Pest Management”. Integrated Pest Management is and “environmentally sensitive approach to pest management…that use[s] current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. The overall goal of Integrated Pest Management is to achieve the “least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment”, while remaining economically viable for the grower (http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/ipm.htm; accessed 6/23/2013).

In an effort to reduce pesticide levels in crops, these type of Integrated Pest Management programs have been

Fungicide made with Copper Sulfate and Lime: Photo By Pg1945 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fungicide made with Copper Sulfate and Lime:
Photo By Pg1945 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

implemented in many areas of agriculture, including viticulture/grape growing. There are legal limits of pesticides in  consumables, with maximum levels varying depending upon where you are in the world. Maximum levels are always set at levels that aren’t toxic, but are instead based on tolerance levels and other agricultural information.

In terms of pesticides in viticulture, it’s possible that residual pesticides on the grape skins could get into the must and the wine, since the skins may be in contact with the juice for a period of time (mostly in reds). However, the winemaking process itself acts to somewhat further reduce the levels of residual pesticides in the wine, as the lees and other solid compounds in the wine can easily absorb the pesticides, and once these solids are filtered out, there remains very little (if any) pesticide residue in the finished wine. Despite this, studies prior to implementation of Integrated Pest Management had been able to detect certain pesticides in the finished wine, despite going through the filtering process during winemaking.

In 2009, the Italian Ministry of Health found that 39.9% of all wine sold throughout Italy had at least one pesticide that was detectable, though all were below legal maximum limits. The study today aimed to examine how the implementation of Integrated Pest Management systems affected the detectable amounts of pesticides in Italian wine (specifically Sardinian wines) after monitoring these levels for three years in a row. Results could provide information on whether or not Integrated Pest Management systems are beneficial in reducing the levels of pesticide residues in wine, so that potential pest management method recommendations could be made to other grape or crop growing regions.

Methods

This study took place over three years and using 14 different grape varieties. Some of the grapes were processed with

Sardinia (in green) Photo By Gigillo83 (English: Own work. Italiano: Fatta da me.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sardinia (in green)
Photo By Gigillo83 (English: Own work. Italiano: Fatta da me.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

the skins in contact with the juice, while another group of grapes were processed without skin contact. Pest management programs at the various sites included; 1 herbicide, 6 different insecticides, and 23 different fungicides (30 total. Note: not all the chemicals were used on every site).

All wines were created using typical fermentation techniques, and after 15 days wines were separated from the lees and analyzed for pesticide residues using gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy. 5mL of each wine sample was used in the pesticide residue analysis.

Analytical procedures were validated to confirm the results obtained were accurate and interpretable.

Results

• Analytical procedures were successfully validated, with results comparable to other studies using the same analyses.
• 11 of the 30 pesticides used were found in at least one grape variety, while the other 19 were below the lower detection limit on the study equipment.
• The most frequently found pesticides in the study wines were: metalaxil, myclobutanil, and penconazole.
• Grape varieties and finished wines that did not possess any pesticide residues were Bovale, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
• Grape varieties and finished wines with the highest levels of pesticide residues were Carignano and Vermentino (mostly in the form of fungicides and insecticides), though these levels were below the legal limits.
• There appeared to be no difference in residual pesticides between red and white varieties as well as their finished wines.
• Chemical compounds that were previously found in older studies prior to implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocols were not found to be present in any of the wines tested.
o      IPM methods appear to have reduced the levels of pesticide residues in grapes and finished wines.

Concluding Thoughts

The results of this study were promising in that it appears as though the implementation of an Integrated Pest Management system in Sardinia, Italy has resulted in a marked reducing of pesticide residues in grapes and finished wines. Though they were never above lower legal limits to begin with, the build-up of these chemicals over time could cause significant problems for both the environment and for human health. Measures to reduce the levels of pesticides used on grapes (and other crops) throughout the growing season should certainly be adopted by as many vineyards as possible, particular in this time of a changing climate where ecosystems are already at their breaking points.

The authors of this study claimed that based on these results, it may be feasible to create wines that have pesticide residue detection levels that are 100 times lower than maximum level allowed by law, and thus over 100,000 times less than the acceptable/safe consumption limit in humans. These significant reductions in pesticide residues as a result of Integrated Pest Management procedures, coupled with the absorptive qualities of various standard winemaking materials, it could be very possible that pesticide residue levels in all wines can be reduced below detectable limits or even completely eliminated.

Overall, I found the results of this study very promising, but I wish the authors had given a little bit more info on the actual Integrated Pest Management systems in place at each study vineyard. Which pesticides were used where? Were these vineyards using other organic or sustainable viticulture techniques? I feel as though there may be some variation

Use of Pheromones in Integrated Pest Management: Photo By Dietrich Krieger (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Use of Pheromones in Integrated Pest Management:
Photo By Dietrich Krieger (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

unaccounted for in these results, and I’d be curious to know how each site was different in terms of their IPM technique, and if there were any trends in terms of which IPM techniques provided the greatest reduction in pesticide residues, or if all IPM techniques were equally as effective but the grape variety was the source of the variation in the system. It’s possible that they did control for these things, but it was not clear in the study that this was done.

Interesting study and results, I’d just like to see more details on the methodology and experimental design!

What do you all think of this study? For those that have implemented more sustainable Integrated Pest Management protocols, have you noticed a reduction of pesticide levels in your wines? Or, if you haven’t measured pesticide levels in wine, what other benefits have you seen from this type of vineyard management? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts, questions, experiences, or what have you!

Source: Angioni, A., and Dedola, F. 2013. Three years monitoring survey of pesticide residues in Sardinia wines following integrated pest management strategies. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 185: 4281-4289.

2 comments for “Integrated Pest Management Systems: Do They Effectively Reduce Pesticide Residues in Wine?

  1. Laura Breyer
    June 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Hello Becca,

    Thank you for a thoughtful article. I’m an IPM pest control advisor in California’s north coast area and have been working with winegrapes for over 25 years. As an industry, we’ve made a lot of progress in understanding how the various pests (fungi, insects, etc) interact with the grapes, and the pesticide manufacturers have made advances in products that are softer and less disruptive.
    I’m interested in your comment “Though they were never above lower legal limits to begin with, the build-up of these chemicals over time could cause significant problems for both the environment and for human health.”. This was certainly true for older classes of chemistry that are now either banned or not widely in use in winegrapes (e.g. DDT, lead arsenate, carbamate and organophosphate insecticides). I’m not sure this is true for the current classes of pesticides we use, both from the standpoints of building up in the environment and the effects on human health. Chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides (like DDT) were extremely persistent in the environment and bio-accumulated in lipids. Pesticides used today do not. Carbamate and OP insecticides were indiscriminant neurotoxins; many of the current chemistries take advantage of unique insect physiology and metabolism to reduce or eliminate the non-target risks.
    And speaking of risks, as you mentioned, each country has its own maximum residue limits for pesticides in the products we consume. I believe in the US those limits are 25 times lower than what is found to be the lowest level that may cause a problem. Anyone in winemaking knows the odor of H2S, and that our nose has evolved to be a remarkable detector of it due to the gas’s inherent toxicity in low concentration. As technology has improved over the years, we’ve gone from being able to detect pesticide residues in parts per million, to parts per billion and trillion. We have not reached the pinnacle of pest management and we are continually learning and improving as we go. It’s nice to know there are winemaking techniques that can reduce pesticide levels in wine.

    Laura Breyer
    Breyer’s Vineyard IPM Service
    (Pesticide use comments are relative to California winegrapes. Other crops and locations have different rules/trends)

    • Becca
      July 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Laura!

      Thanks for all your great comments! You make some excellent points, and it’s so great to have someone who is heavily involved in the subject I’m discussing on the blog give their take on everything.

      Thank you so much for adding some great insight to the post!

      Cheers!

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