Central field day: irrigation and cover crop progress

By Max Marriott

Assistant Vineyard Manager

A hot, dry summer’s day in Central with a slight breeze was stark contrast from the wet and cold field days held elsewhere in the country the preceding fortnight. There was a good turnout despite Christmas just around the corner, with everyone busy bringing vineyards up to speed before the break. Topics for the day included fertigation and irrigation, and whilst advisor Bart Arnst and vineyard manager Grant Rolston touched on these, the session took on a more holistic approach and discussed the season to date and work in the vineyard since the last field day shortly after bud break.

School House vineyard field day, Dec 20th


The irrigation regime to date has steadily increased to match the dependence on the canopy’s growth. There is already evidence of favourable soil conditions in the organic sections of the vineyard, which showed proximal wetting and ground penetration around the vine. In contrast, sections of the conventional blocks were suffering from considerable runoff. To mitigate this runoff – for both the conventional and organic blocks – especially on more sloping parts of the vineyard, there was talk of increasing the number of irrigation cycles whilst maintaining the amount of water applied. So instead of one hour per day in one block, perhaps three 20min cycles to assist with penetration into and down the profile with limited runoff.

The frosted parts of the vineyard were also inspected and the response and growth of the vines was encouraging. The cover crop rows were also walked through, with everyone remarking on the amount of life in these rows; various types of bees, wasps, flies and bugs. The successful Phacelia strike was evident throughout the sown rows, demonstrating this plant’s particular suitability to the more arid environment of Central Otago. The buckwheat, though still present in patches, was affected by the November frost. Comment was made on the success of strikes occurring with cover crops, based on the lottery of the weather, availability of overhead irrigation (sprinklers for frost protection), timing of sowing and soil conditions.

A great day, with lots of positive feedback and interest in the project.