The theme of the 15th Vivexpo Cork Biennial was “suberopastorism”, that is, silvopastorism (or how to combine livestock and forestry) in the cork oak forest (the suberaie). Many experts from across the Mediterranean were invited to the occasion.
It was in the “monument” dolmen of Siureda, dating from the 3rd millennium BC, surrounded by oak trees on the heights of Maureillas-Las Illas, that feedback was given on the subject of suberopastorism.
The forty people present – speakers from the Regional Center for Forestry Property (CRPF) Occitania, the Mediterranean Cork Institute (IML), the Pyrenees-Oriental Agriculture Chamber, forest owners, French but also Italians, Spaniards, Tunisians, Portuguese, were able to discover the shares of the owner, Mr. Cantana, a member of the 143-member Catalan Free Trade Union Association Suberaie, which owns several hundred hectares of forest in the city. “After buying these lots that were completely abandoned for 14 years, cleaning work was done and the animals have been keeping them ever since”. The creator, who also lifts the cork, continues: “ Here there is a herd of local cows from the Albères that are adapted to the country. We have 5 farms with cows, goats, horses, sheep, sheep and game, deer, fallow deer, wild boar, all together about a thousand animals”. If the immediate benefit is the maintenance of shrubby undergrowth with an important role in preventing the risk of fire, other questions were raised in particular by Foued Hasnaoui, PhD in agronomic sciences and assistant professor of environmental protection at the Sylvopastoral Institute of Taburka (ISPT ) in Tunisia, on the disappearance of undergrowth “which would prevent trees from having water because it runs off instead of percolating through the root systems”where another participant indicated that the shrub layer on the contrary “water absorbed at the expense of the tree”.
No agreement on this matter, crucial as it may be, has emerged between the two protagonists. Despite “Overgrazing poses a real risk” even if he is judged “quite rare in the department” by Anne Rouquette of the Chamber of Agriculture. So, if the benefit of linked activities is important, it must be adapted to each location to maintain a viable balance for animals, forest regeneration and local residents. Especially since factors such as tree diseases, an example cited and seen at the oak coal site, showed the complexity of silvopastoralism requiring constant adaptations, even more so with already perceptible climate changes.
Suberopastorism. Don’t look up that word in the dictionary, it doesn’t exist. Or at least not yet. This denomination was created by the team at the Mediterranean Cork Institute based in Vivès. Echoes the terms used in the Iberian Peninsula: dehesa in Portuguese is mounted in Spanish. Proof of the importance of such a system throughout the Mediterranean. “It is true that silvopastorism has long been inseparable from our Mediterranean forests”recognizes Renaud Piazzetta, director of the Mediterranean Cork Institute, although today “it is often confined to areas benefiting from forest fire defenses, where livestock are used in addition to clearings for maintaining fuel cuts (commonly called “firewalls”)”. Practice acclaimed for its multifunctional nature, however, it is sometimes the target of criticism regarding its application methods. However, it continues to be disseminated in the other cork producing territories of the Maghreb, in Sardinia and elsewhere, in very different forms and socio-economic contexts.
Hence the idea of the theme chosen for the international conference Vivexpo 2022: “How to reconcile animal production and cork production in a forest with multiple challenges?”. This is what many specialists representing the main technical and research institutes that develop work on these topics in each producing country have managed to develop. Based on concrete examples in the field (see opposite), participants were able to share their respective experiences. And so to have an overview of silvopastoral practices and the way they can be articulated with the forest management of cork oak forests.
Another highlight was the results of the 13th Vivexpo contest for natural sweet wines (VDN) and its auction.
Organized by the association of wines and terroirs of knowledge, the interprofessional council of wines Roussillon (CIVR) and the IML, the Vivexpo competition for natural sweet wines highlights this product from the Eastern Pyrenees which represents 90% of French production of this type of wine. and whose cork is privileged to protect its aging under the best conditions. The gold, silver and bronze medals and the Vivexpo 2022 Grand Prix for natural sweet red and white wines were tasted on April 8, and on that day the producers were awarded by Gilles Caillens, oenologist for Knowledge of wines and terroirs: Arnaud- The Ambré Rivesaltes 1988 by de-Villeneuve and the Banyuls Grand Cru 2012 by the Catalan winegrowers were the big winners of this edition of the Vivexpo competition. After being able to taste the products, interested customers participated in the public auction to acquire this “Catalan gold”, 25 lots of 6 bottles.