How Chamisal Vineyards created the first Miyawaki forest on a US winery to sequester carbon

In 1976, Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki began researching how to increase the growth rate of native forests in urban areas. Fast forward to today and Miyawaki forests have been planted in many countries around the world, but very few in the United States. Today a winery in Edna Valley, California, Chamisal Vineyards, has become the first winery in America to plant a Miyawaki forest next to its wine grape vineyards.

“I started researching the forests of Miyawaki in 2020,” reports Fin du Fresne, general manager and winemaker at Chamisal Vineyards. “Then, in the spring of 2021, we prepared the ground and planted 45 species of oak native to this region, as well as small and large native shrubs. Not only is it beautiful to look at, it helps the environment by sequestering carbon. Eventually, we hope to recover our investment by selling carbon credits.

The process of planting a Miyawaki forest

Miyawaki forests have also been called tiny forests because they are not very big, but grow very fast. The minimum space needed to plant the forest is 3 x 4 meters (approximately 10 x 13 feet), so they are ideal for urban areas. However, they can also be planted in rural areas and can be taller. For example, the Miyawaki Forest at Chamisal Vineyards measures 10 x 200 feet and has a total of 500 plants.

The process of planting such a forest includes preparing the ground by digging at least 3 feet deep and filling the soil with organic matter. Then, many different native trees and shrubs are planted very close together, so they have to compete for light. This makes them grow very fast. During the first two years, the plants are watered, weeded and fed with organic fertilizers (never artificial or chemical fertilizers). From the third year, the forest is maintenance-free. The following Youtube video created by the non-profit organization SayTrees in India describes the process well:

The Benefits and Costs of Planting a Miyawaki Forest

Research has shown that there are many benefits to planting a Miyawaki forest. The forest reaches maturity in as little as 20 to 30 years, instead of the traditional 200 to 300 years. It grows 10 times faster, is 30 times denser and requires no maintenance after 3 years. It can attract up to 600 different species of birds, insects and animals. Miyawaki’s forests have been proven to cool air temperatures by up to 5 degrees, reduce air pollution and, most importantly, act as carbon sinks.

“One of the wonders of carbon right now,” du Fresne says, “is that we think we can be carbon negative, because of our Miyawaki forest and vineyard sink. In the future, we can sell the credits However, we need to do the work now to make it happen, even if currently it is still a net negative value.

Indeed, the cost and labor to install a Miyawaki forest is one of the disadvantages, as well as the need for water during the first three years. However, at Chamisal Vineyards, du Fresne reports that it wasn’t that expensive of an investment.

“It cost us less than $10,000 to plant Miyawaki Forest here, including plants and labor,” says du Fresne. “Also, since we use native plants, they require less water. We irrigate with micro-sprayers, and since we are located only 8 km from the Pacific Ocean, the plants get most of their water from the fog.

Redeem carbon credits

According to a recent Forbes article, carbon offsets are on the verge of becoming a huge market, so maybe Chamisal Vineyards is on the right track. According to author Rob Day, some experts are now predicting that $100/tonne of carbon could become commonplace in the future. Although many opponents argue that offsets simply allow polluters to continue polluting, rather than reducing their direct carbon emissions, some industries may never be able to become carbon neutral – hence the need to buy credits.

“Carbon credits are a new industry,” says du Fresne, “it’s evolving and there are no fixed prices. However, we are convinced that the cost of carbon will increase until 2050. Beyond this point, it could decrease. However, we have 82 acres of vines, and if our forest trial in Miyawaki works well, we will expand it. With all these carbon sinks, we will have excess carbon offsets to sell. »

Carbon Negative Activities at Vignoble de Chamisal and Crimson Wine Group

Fortunately, Chamisal Vineyard is also taking many other steps to become carbon negative. They have reduced the weight of their wine bottles (the biggest part of wine’s carbon footprint), saving 40 tons of glass so far. They also installed solar power in the winery, retrofitted their chiller to reduce refrigeration costs, recycle waste water, compost waste, use organic farming methods, and zero tillage in the vineyards. All of these methods have reduced their carbon emissions.

Chamisal is part of the larger Crimson Wine Group, which includes Pine Ridge, Seghesio, Archery Summit and other wineries. Crimson is one of the first 20 global wineries to become a member of the International Wineries for Climate Action Group (IWCA). Under this umbrella, Chamisal is currently analyzing its greenhouse gas emissions, so that it can continue to take action to achieve the IWCA goal of decarbonizing the global wine industry.

The installation of the Miyawaki Forest supports all of these efforts, and also allows Chamisal Vineyards to become the first winery in America to create such a forest. Nicolas Quillé MW, Chief Winemaking & Operations Officer of the Crimson Wine Group, and supervisor of du Frense, is proud of Chamisal’s leadership with the forest. “Miyawaki Forest beautifies the landscape and is a manifestation of our environmental commitment to our visitors and employees. The forest brings together the teams – viticulture, winemaking and marketing – around a concrete and concrete project, which we can extend to other wine estates of the Crimson Wine Group.

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