Napa is much smaller than the Central Valley, but the impact of vineyard burning is the same. It triggers asthma and other respiratory problems and releases carbon black particles into the atmosphere as well as CO2 which warms the planet.
Even recent efforts to reduce the worst black carbon emissions are insufficient. The sequestered carbon is released into the atmosphere as a combination of CO2 and particles of different sizes. We must develop and adopt practices that reduce the total carbon released, not just the most visible.
As we approach the tipping point in trying to contain global warming, everyone must do everything in their power to eliminate carbon emissions. We can no longer point the finger at larger contributors; we must do everything in our own field to contribute to the solutions.
We looked at various alternatives to burning vineyards for convenience and reduced carbon release. While all of them are better than open burns, we find that the most promising approach is what is called âconservation burningâ.
In conservation burning, grapevine wood is put in small piles, often in some sort of containment vessel. When the fire has caught, it is deprived of oxygen, which prevents the complete combustion of the wood. The fire is extinguished with water, leaving charcoal.
The special shape of charcoal is called biochar because it retains the shape of the original wood, is made of carbon, and is porous. There are reports that conservation burning turns up to 50% of woody material into biochar, instead of going into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and soot smoke.