Talking about active soils means talking about Hérody and his soil analysis method. A long time ago here, in Mas Martinet, we took part in a training given by Jean Pierre Scherer, an expert in edaphology and organic farming, and this method was explained in the training, a method that bring us closer to our soils with very simple and comprehensible techniques.
A method that implies going to the vineyard… chose a spot to analyse and dig a hole, a 45/50-cm-deep hole. The ideal thing would be to find the parent rock, but it is not always easy. We will have to dig as many holes as the number of soil profiles that we have. We will take soil samples from two perspectives, from the most superficial part and the deepest part, in order to detect some differences in colour, structure, humidity… We will also know the soil composition and pH level, and with it, its minerals assimilation capacity. In short, we will get a picture of our soil fertility status.
Making a churro or a croissant with the soil a bit moist can tell us its clay level. Adding some dilute acid drops on the soil and observe its reaction will let us know the organic matter activity level and its ease of degradation. Knowing the pH, the acidification level, will tell us its minerals assimilation capacity.
But, as a qualitative analysis, here there is “nothing good or bad. Each soil has its genetics and its potential” Sara Pérez tells us while she observes the soil sample and takes its biggest particles.
First of all, Priorat has a climate that mineralises, creates a lot of mobile organic matter (which means that it degrades very easily). And our soils are not calcareous, they have very few clays, so this means little capacity to catch organic matter. And this little organic matter moves easily and, therefore, it leaches (it dissolves) with the rains and it is lost. “And what do we do? Well… everything that we culturally know that promotes stable humus, humification in the soil” she explains further. For example, we use straw as a covering in order to avoid promoting mineralisation, but without exaggerating, because for a long time, knowing from where we started, we have been using very mature compounds, vegetation covers, without ploughing… maybe we have gone to the other extreme.“The ideal thing would be to get the humus in the upper part (in the most superficial part), because it is the stable organic part, and it is where a large number of transforming microorganisms live,” tells us Pere Vall.
We refill the hole, and we take the samples to the winery laboratory in order to let the soil get completely dry and take the chance to carry out chromatographies, continue analysing and keep these analyses in our files. It will let us compare with the following years and get reliable indicators that tell us where we come from and where we go, whether the soil is ageing and losing its fertility or whether we are reverting this ageing process and improving its conditions with our actions.
Understand and feel our soil.