A Commitment to Preserving Local Air Quality

© Sarah Anne Risk

NVG's Vineyard Burning Task Force


In November 2015, NVG convened a ‘Vineyard Burning Task Force’ to address concerns over the occurrences of smoky burns in Napa Valley. The Vineyard Burning Task Force is comprised of growers, leaders in local sustainable practices, and experts in fire science.  Within the first couple meetings, a commitment was made to develop a 3-year plan to reduce smoke and preserve air quality in Napa Valley. Since 2018, NVG continues to expand its educational outreach providing seminars and resources to the ag community in both Spanish and English.


By educating the broader community on the low-smoke burning technique, we can:

  • Lessen the carbon footprint and negative health impacts that result from traditional smoky burns 
  • Provide an environmentally friendly alternative technique for growers to mitigate serious pest and disease issues

Achievements to date include:

  • Development of new vine removal protocol and best practices brochure in English and Spanish
  • New, improved 'Open Burning Best Practices' white paper 
  • Field days with live burn demonstrations
  • Annual ROOTSTOCK Symposium informational session
  • Partnering with Napa Sierra Club and Napa Climate NOW! to pursue future research opportunities
  • Representation and community education through public forums
  • Preventative outreach to high-risk sites--the NVG Task Force proactively reaches out to properties with high risk burn piles
  • Program listed on Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's website

No other agricultural region has instituted a program such as this one.  However, we believe that at minimum additional cost, it could be implemented in other wine regions and for other orchard crops across California. 

WHAT'S NEXT? 2019 and Beyond.

NVG's Vineyard Burning Task Force is meeting to develop its next phase of goals. If you are an NVG member and would like to participate on the Task Force, contact the NVG office.


Often there is no one right answer to any sustainable best practices question, but as responsible farmers, we pursue practices that complement and protect our unique environment and natural resources and work proactively to find sustainable solutions. NVG’s innovative technique is gaining momentum as a farmer designed and driven, sustainable, just, and economical alternative to traditional ag burning.

The Task Force developed a 6-step approach in English and Spanish to help preserve air quality by significantly reducing the amount of smoke generated in Napa County due to agricultural burns. The technique promotes:

  • Effective vine-pulling procedure
  • Proper vine drying times
  • Removal of excess dirt
  • Tarping to keep the center of the piles dry during rain events 

The result is a virtually smoke-free burn—known as ‘NVG’s Low-Smoke Agricultural Burning Program’.   Click on the English and Spanish brochures below for details. Hard copies are available to for members at the NVG office.


BURN SEASON: October through April 

For more information on NVG's Low-Smoke Agricultural Burning Program, read         'Reducing Smoke in the Valley: It's Not Just Hot Air'


Burning is an essential practice with no known alternative when it comes to mitigating risks associated with pest and disease issues.  Most invasive pests are vectored by moving vine material, including chipped and woody debris. In such instances, other alternative methods such as chipping and grinding cannot be implemented.

Serious economic repercussions can result from the spread of detrimental pests and diseases. Efforts recently taken to eradicate the European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) mandated federal and state permits, inspections, quarantine zones, and strict restrictions on movement of all grapevine plant material—at the cost of $115 million in public and private funds. The issue is as much about the pests and diseases we don’t know, as the ones we do. Future vineyard pests could pose a similar threat. As such, grapevine woody debris is best disposed of on-site and through disease eliminative processes such as burning.  NVG's program could also be expanded to help mitigate risk associated with the loss of other crops grown in California.


Thank you to the NVG Task Force! 

Chairs: Larry Bettinelli and Hal Huffsmith

Members: Roberto Juarez, Rick Thornberry, Rolando Sanchez, Kirk Grace, Beth Milliken, Mary Maher, Garrett Buckland, Dave Whitmer, Dr. Monica L. Cooper, Greg Clark

NVG Contact: Molly Moran Williams, Industry & Community Relations Manager

© 2019 Napa Valley Grapegrowers