Organic advisor’s report

By Bart Arnst, Viticultural Consultant


Bart Arnst walks growers through the vines at the first Organic Focus Vineyard field day at Mission Estate


This was the first visit to Mission Estate as part of the focus vineyard comparison between an “in organic conversion” vineyard and a “conventional or agrichemically run vineyard.”

We initially had an in-office discussion. This entailed checking over a potential spray program, discussing nutrient requirements, weed control, and the possibility of taking comparative soil tests including MRT (multi residue tests).

After our initial discussions we followed with a vineyard walk, looking at the various blocks and getting an understanding of the property.

Between 3.00pm and 5.00pm Caine hosted an interested parties vineyard walk and discussion; approximately 30 growers attended.

Weed control options, pest and disease control strategies and soil health were all discussed.

The biggest issue I see at this stage is the enlivenment of the soil. It appears very tight, compact and tired. Imagine your root system attempting to penetrate through concrete: difficult of course, and likely to be restricting nutrient uptake, moisture penetration and reduced soil aeration, which in turn affects root metabolism. The property is after all one of the oldest (if not the oldest) vineyard sites in New Zealand, so in all likelihood has had all sorts thrown at it and on it over the previous decades.

Soil drenches and appropriate covercrop options were discussed and considered. Unfortunately we have missed the window on spring sowing and with the typically hot dry weather ahead we will wait to post-harvest for an autumn sowing.

The weeder used is unknown to me (developed locally) and has left a ready lawn turned over appearance. The owner/operator (local contractor) of the machine has indicated that the turf will be broken apart with the next pass.

Soils such as these can easily create pans, so varying depth of cultivation will be necessary. But most importantly feeding the soil and encouragement of soil microbial diversity should be the priority.

Caine is comfortable with the choices available for canopy spraying and will operate a conservative spray program this vintage. By this I mean it will be based around looking to substitute organically certified products for those previously applied. If previously product X was applied, then we will replace it with organic product Y. This is likely to evolve over time as all parties become more comfortable with the change in management systems.

About organicwinegrowersnz

Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) is an incorporated society for organic and aspiring organic grape and wine producers. We work to encourage and support the production of high quality organic wines from New Zealand, through education, research, networking, and advocacy.
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2 Responses to Organic advisor’s report

  1. John Patrick says:

    The ‘local contractor’ responsible for the weeding of the Focus Vineyard is in fact a ‘grower’ first and a contractor second. Our machinery is not for weeding but for soil improvement and was designed to provide an affordable undervine cultivation regime. It is focused on developing soil structure by encouraging worm infestation and increasing organic material. I am tremendously proud to have been invited by Caine to trial our machinery at the Mission and feel that we are able to bring an affordable solution to the main ‘objection’ that most growers have to stop using herbicides.

  2. James Millton - Millton Wine Estate says:

    Caine, great effort and to think that this company with land farmed in grapes being the oldest vineyards in NZ are converting to a more holistic vineyard management program is to be heralded. Congratulations and I hope it brings joy and smiles to your workers, and a shining robe and texture to the resulting wine allowing your customers to recognise a product distinguishing a more precise form of “somewhereness” and also improved returns in the four differing areas of sustainability. Great stuff Bart. Excellent website and communication platform Rebecca. With glass in hand I remain…farming ease, not fighting dis-ease. Keep up the good work.

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