January vineyard update: organic & conventional blocks all in good health

By Caine Thompson, Viticulturist, Mission Estate

The January period has bought about some fairly extreme weather events. We have experienced dry, settled conditions with warm temperatures thanks to predominantly north west weather patterns. These conditions have accelerated shoot growth and berry development to the point where Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are now well into veraison.

Organic Pinot Gris at the start of veraison

Over the last few days (20th, 21st and 22nd) we have experienced 190mm of rain. This has brought about concerns about downy mildew and also botrytis which we are monitoring closely.

At this stage, after this event we haven’t seen any of these diseases show up in any of the blocks in the trial. However there is some splitting of skins starting to occur in the Pinot Gris blocks.

Our spray program organically has been predominantly sulphur, copper, protector and seaweed. Our conventional program has been a combination of DMIs, copper and sulphur over this period. We have used Serenade Max at bunch closure on the organic blocks and Switch on the conventionally grown blocks.

Sheep have been used for leaf plucking across Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Fruit exposure across all three varieties is about 90% at this stage. Given the characteristics of this site, this exposure is usually at about 50% at harvest with the regrowth that occurs.

Fruition is the company that has been contracted to access powdery mildew and downy mildew at this time in the growing season. Monitoring was conducted on the 19th of January. In summary the monitoring has shown that there is a small amount of powdery mildew present in each variety across both organic and conventional treatments. The differences between these progammes are very small, showing that both spray programmes have been successful in a very challenging year for powdery mildew.

We have recently completed our third cultivation pass on the Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, whereas the Sauvignon Blanc has just had two passes.

Netting has commenced in the Pinot Gris and will continue into the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc over the next few weeks.

We are monitoring the weather conditions closely, especially given that ripening is underway in Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, so we will be ready for applying late season botryticides as and when is required, which will be based on forecasted weather events.

In terms of financial costs per hectare, at this stage in the season both regimes are fairly similar as we enter into the tail end of the growing season.

The next monitoring round by Fruition will be preharvest, monitoring botrytis, sour rot and mealy bug numbers.

The next field day will be held on the 14th of February from 1.30pm until 4pm, which will provide people a chance to look through these blocks to make their own comparisons between the growing regimes.

I am very pleased with how both growing regimes are looking at this stage in the season and am looking forward to the vintage ahead.

Conventional Chardonnay, 25th January

Organic Chardonnay, 25th January



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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