Reconstitution and its Consequences

1. VITICULTURAL NURSERIES

A consequence of the grafting and the Reconstitution was the birth of the profession of viticultural nursery, because until then, it existed only conservatories, or private collections constituted by passionate amateurs or ampeloraphs.

The mission of the nurseries was initially to introduce vines, and especially seeds of American varieties, with which the first grafted vineyards were formed.

This work was tedious and often thankless.

In fact, while most American vines were resistant to the harmful aphid, they did not always have the qualities required to flourish on European soils. The first generations of rootstocks withered by their inability to resist the calcareous chlorosis. Thus, the damage of Phylloxera was extended by various types of dieback. It took many and sometimes painful experiments to understand the affinity of rootstocks with calcareous, clay, shale, stony, sandy soils, wet, cool soils, dry conditions, etc…

 

 

Then first grafting assistance machines were developed. They usually helped in cutting the graft, but sometimes also the subject itself.

Locally, practitioners rehabilitated or rediscovered variants to ancestral methods, and they were found under the names of their authors, or the region where they were re-developed.

For example, some grafts are called "Gaillard", "Salgues", "Mayorquine", "Cadillac"…

2. THE EVOLUTION OF CONTEMPORARY VITICULTURE

In the 20th century, we moved from extensive agriculture to intensive agriculture.
 

Monoculture became the rule, and the land was specialized.



The vines went down into the plains, fertile and mecanisable. Productive plants were favored, assisted by chemical nitrogen fertilizers and watering, and since the plants had been weakened, they were forced to over-treat them, in a diabolical process of supposedly life-saving chemistry.

 

 

However, A. Howard warned already in 1940: «These machines do not produce manure or manure, so they cannot contribute to the maintenance of fertility». With the extension of artificial fertilizers, and the exhaustion of the humus reserve which is initially contained in every fertile soil, a corresponding increase in diseases of crops and animals is manifested…".

 

The mechanization has become complete: sulphurers, pesticides, tractors, harvester, pinardiers, etc

In short, a race for chemical, mechanical and performance intelligence. Man believed to dominate his environment completely thanks to science.

 

These new «slaves of modern agriculture» have forgotten the rest and life of the soil, made of complementary growth and decomposition of each other. They forgot that plants and animals were alive and complementing each other. They have shamelessly degraded everything, and unfortunately, with the certainty of favouring humanity.
 

He also cited Eastern models, having spent most of his career in India, and noting that where livestock and crops co-existed, plots remained fertile and their production disease-free.


After the war, most countries established research establishments: INRA in 1946 and ANTAV in 1962 (Entav in 1986), among other missions, were responsible for clonal selection. Clones have been promoted since 1971, which became widespread in the 1980s, thanks to ambiguous and highly incentive regulations.

 

The selection became exclusively sanitary for technical, political or commercial reasons.

 

In fact, another unexpected consequence of the Reconstitution, the introduction and extraordinary exchange of plant material in the wine-growing world, had introduced many diseases, especially viral ones. While the objective is laudable in itself, it has contributed to the depletion of intra- and extra-varietal biodiversity. This has drastically reduced the choice of plant material available, and led to the current situation of some imperialist grape varieties and clones, throughout the wine-growing world.

 

When some of these clones have genetic weaknesses that cause them to wither prematurely, as is the case with Syrah, Vermentino, Centenial etc… Generally and strangely, moreover, on the seam of grafting, as these clones have been multiplied in an unlimited way, the damages are immeasurable and that concerns the great majority of the vines. In the past, when an individual among thousands of other stocks (massale) suffered from a genetic weakness to the culture, he withered solitary and in ignorance of the winemaker. The damage was painless.

 

Thus, genetic and industrial selection runs up against an impassable limit.

 

Albert Howard also deplored the chemistry that weakens the plants, considering that “Insects and fungi are not the real cause of the disease”, but are the useful auxiliaries of agriculture, the censors of a bad crop.

 

Moreover, at the end of his work, like a will, he made a vow:

 

“The effectiveness of agriculture in the future will be measured by fewer plant breeders”.

3. IMPACTS OF GRAFTING ON CONTEMPORARY VINEYARDS

Whatever the grafting technique used, this operation generates the formation of a weld bulge which inevitably changes the physiology and consequently the nutrition of the new plant.
 



In 1881, in his book «Parasites et plantes greffées» Lucien Daniel wrote : “… it is now demonstrated, with a few exceptions, that grafting is a debilitating operation, exposing both plants to the more intense attacks of animal and plant parasites and causing them to die more quickly”.
 

He explained it in particular according to the principle of the watery plethora.

 

Much later, Danielle Scheidecker, the eminent biologist specializing in plant grafting, explained the phenomenon in 1961 as follows: The surgical intervention of grafting has the consequence of the formation of the scar seam of welding. The anatomical structure of this bulge, which will largely determine its physiological role, varies considerably from graft to graft. It depends on the nature of the plants involved, but also on their age and stage of development at the time of the operation, as well as the grafting technique chosen» (“the transplant, its anatomical conditions, physiological consequences and potential genetic results”).

 

Thus, if the old vines could live multi-centenarians (v. Bosc), with grafting, they saw their average life expectancy reduced to a hundred years - moreover the surviving vines of our grandparents testify to this.

With the creation and generalization of industrial and mechanized vine plants, in the 1980s (omega grafting), grafts-welded became real "consumables", whose average life expectancy is reduced to about thirty years.
 


Although there are several reasons for the deterioration of vineyards, it is undeniable that grafting was the main cause.