Discourse on Soil Health Restoration

By Spiritz Desk
New Update
Discourse on Soil Health Restoration

For the third year in a row, the Association of Regenerative Viticulture held its annual Regenerative Viticulture Conference with the goal of raising awareness of a new agricultural paradigm; aimed at restoring soil health to make vineyards more resilient to climate change.

An awareness and understanding of the living organisms that inhabit the soil are fundamental to regenerative viticulture and was the focal point of this conference. Eight Spanish and international experts, including the microbiologists Dr. Elaine Ingham and Lydia and Claude Bourguignon, explained the nature of microbial soil life and how it works, as well as why its restoration and subsequent care can not only help vineyards adapt to the climate reality but can contribute to mitigating the effects of global warming.


Around 300 people attended the conference, either in person or via streaming, which was held at the Castell de Falset, the capital of the Priorat region, in spain on 16th May. Entitled ‘Soil Microbiology: the Key to Resilient Viticulture’ and moderated by journalist Ruth Troyano, the event opened with a few thoughts from Miguel Torres Maczassek, President of the Regenerative Viticulture Association and General Manager of Familia Torres. He emphasised “the enormous human dimension of this type of viticulture, because the greatest transformation lies not only in the soil, but in people themselves”. Miguel Torres pointed to the importance of “observing and understanding each vineyard and defining a clear roadmap towards creating ecosystems which imitate nature”.

The Association of Regenerative Viticulture was created in 2021 to drive a paradigm shift in vineyard management and the adoption of regenerative viticulture, a management model based on the carbon cycle to regenerate soils, reduce erosion, encourage biodiversity, and mitigate global warming. Promoted by five founding partners (Familia Torres, Clos Mogador, Can Feixes, Jean Leon, and AgroAssessor), the association seeks to act as a meeting point for sharing information, experiences, and know-how to successfully implement the viticulture of climate change. There are currently over 80 members from six countries in this association.

Role of Microorganisms

After a welcome address by the Mayor of Falset, Carlos Brull, who described “respect for diversity, the natural environment, and sustainability as cornerstones of the region”, the floor was given to the inaugural speaker, Dr.Elaine Ingham, an American microbiologist and Founder of Soil Food Web School. Considered one of the world’s leading soil biologists with 40 years of experience, Ingham explained that despite initial reservations within the scientific community, she ultimately prevailed with her theory that “biology is the basis for restoring life in the soil”.


Ingham described the dynamics that unfold in the soil food chain and the differences between fertile soil and dirt. According to the expert, “we must maximise the number of organisms to establish a nutrient cycle, allowing the plants to reactivate their immunity against diseases and pests.” She went on to say that “With only 3 percent organic matter, the biology of the soil becomes self-sufficient and can propagate; all we have to do is care for the organisms that perform all of the work in the soil.” To this end, she issued a reminder that tilling the soil means killing beneficial microorganisms.

Soil Restoration

The role of biology in adapting wines to global warming was addressed by Lydia and Claude Bourguignon, soil microbiologists and Founders of the lab for microbiological soil analysis (LAMS). They are among the first scientists who issued a warning about soil degradation. The fragility of the soil is derived from biological, chemical, and physical factors (fertilisers, irrigation, pollution, fauna, erosion, inadequate drainage).

Microbial biodiversity helps restore depleted soils. “Wine quality starts with a fertile soil,” they stated. They went on to say that “there are three ways of restoring the soil: adding carbon to the top layer of the soil, cover crops, compost, pruned branches; using plants with deep roots to restore soil structure and combat nematodes; and reactivating fungi and fauna, which are the finest agents of soil fertility”.

Soil Food Web and Plant Diversity


Jeff Lowenfels, author of the award-winning Teaming with Microbes: the Organic Guide to the Soil Food Web, and of other books on gardening and botany, explained how the photosynthesis of plants produces exudates, nutritional substances that attract bacteria and fungi to the rhizosphere. These are then eaten by predators (nematodes, protozoa) whose remains nourish or protect the plant. Furthermore, there are mycorrhizal fungi which exchange nutrients with the roots of the plant. “This constitutes a soil food web,” the expert stated while adding, “And we have to let it do its work,” which means not using chemical fertilisers. “Avoid disrupting the soil and its food web and team up with the microbes,” was among Lowenfels’s advice, who concluded by stating the obvious: “no one fertilises the forest, it grows naturally.”

Dr. Rosa Vercher, an expert in pest ecology, ecological pest control, and leader in sustainable pest management research, concurred that “plant health begins in the

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