Budburst and the first organic audit

By Caine Thompson, Viticulturist, Mission Estate

The growing season is underway after a slightly delayed budburst due to cooler soil temperatures coming out of the winter period. All varieties have now burst bud, with fairly even shoot growth and extension across most varieties. As temperatures begin to warm, shoot growth is rapidly advancing with vine training through wire lifting about to commence.

At this stage in the growing season we have only applied one sulphur at 3kg/ha and a kocide at 0.9kg/ha with 0.5% protector added across all of the Merlot and Syrah.

Comparing the conventional block…

The organic blocks have had one pass with the cultivator and are due to be cultivated again in early November.

The conventional blocks have only had the one herbicide to date and probably won’t need another application until December. At this stage shoot growth and extension looks very similar across both the organic and conventional Syrah and Merlot.

Shoot thinning will be undertaken in the coming weeks to space shoots on vines to allow an open, well-ventilated canopy and to balance vines as they are set up for the season ahead.

More warm settled weather is desired for further shoot growth as the vines move towards the eagerly awaited flowering period of November.

BioGro Audit

I’ve recently been through my first organic certification audit with BioGro and I wanted to share the experience.

I was expecting a tough, problematic torrid time of it, however this was really not the case.

The BioGro auditor, Jared White, was very helpful, knowledgeable and understanding. I was very impressed with his knowledge of viticulture and what actually is involved in viticulture systems and practical applications.

Jared had given me a list pre-audit of everything that he required for the audit, which included:

… and the organic.

1.)   Accurate site maps of organic and conventional blocks

2.)   Soil tests

3.)   Multi-residue soil tests

4.)   Spray diary records of the previous season

5.)   Letter of notification to neighbours and contractors for whom I needed to notify of organic growing

6.)   Affidavit stating the last non-organic agrichemicals applied

7.)   Cleaning between organic and conventional blocks procedure and confirmation

8.)   Proof of separate agrichemical storage of organic and non-organic products

9.)   Detailed management strategy to avoid spray drift from neighbours

Knowing what was required was very helpful, as I had everything available to go through step by step. There were a couple of items that I didn’t have which I needed to get, but other than that the process was straightforward and very logical.

By the time we visited the two vineyards and viewed the organic and conventional blocks and defined where the boundaries were for each of the blocks, the audit took about six hours.

I then had about three weeks to get the couple of documents I didn’t have at the time of the audit to Jared before being signed off officially as in our first year of organic growing under BioGro.

The process was thorough and detailed, but providing you keep good records it is commonsense and fairly straightforward.  In comparison to other audits I have been through, I found it no more or less difficult to SWNZ audits. We are now in our organic registration year in our Mere Road focus vineyard and have acquired C1 organic status at our Greenmeadows vineyard, which has been under conversion to organic production for the past year.