Advisor’s update – December

By Bart Arnst, organic project advisor

Mission Estate Vineyard, Tuesday 7th Dec. This was my second visit to Mission Estate as part of the focus vineyard comparison between an “in organic conversion” vineyard and a “conventional or agrichemically run vineyard.”

Thankfully one of Hawkes Bay’s cooler days.

Bart explains to growers at the December field day

Points risen in our discussions before the vineyard walk were:

1. Vineyard aesthetics.

The driveway leading into the Mission Estate Winery, cellar door and restaurant caters for 150,000 visitors per year. It bisects two of this program’s organic conversion blocks.

Although at this point the weed control in the organic blocks was sufficient not to impact on vine vigour, it could by some be considered an untidy look.

This brought up the need to educate visitors by perhaps having information available at the cellar door explaining the different approaches (the how’s and why’s) at this highly visible location.

Caine will now make sure these blocks are in keeping with the need for a tidy perceived vineyard “look.” He will also be able to isolate the costing on any increased weed control and provide a useful cost per hectare comparison with the less visible blocks.

2. Crop reduction?

There had been comments made by one grower to the Mission CEO that by going to organics you would suffer dramatic crop loss.

This has not been my experience in operating numerous organic vineyards. In fact it seems every vintage we are removing crop to achieve desired quality levels.

Obviously if your organic practices revolve around doing nothing, then problems will be experienced. However, if we focus upon understory competition, soil nutrition, soil biology and pest and disease control then (as with any farming), there is no reason cropping levels should decline.

In the afternoon Caine hosted along with Jonathan Hamlet (Villa Maria Joseph Soler Vineyard) the vineyard walk and discussion. Approximately 35 growers and horticultural reps attended.

Caine provided the costings per ha to date which showed that at this stage the organic blocks were the cheaper to operate.

We drove around the vineyard, stopping at each of the blocks to discuss the inputs for each block and a general discussion of how they were looking and progressing. All comparison blocks looked similar in growth and cropping levels. Flowering was all but completed.

The undervine weeder (which was demonstrated at the conclusion of the walk) had broken many of the slabs of turf which had remained after the first pass.

Those that I spoke to were very positive about the project and looking forward to the next visit.

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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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