Canopy management, sprays & cultivation: January

By Caine Thompson, Viticulturist, Mission Estate

Our January weather has been a continuation of spring! Summer to date has consisted of a few warm periods in early January, with the rest of the month cooler and wetter than average. As a result our Merlot and Syrah blocks are later than usual, with best estimates being about 7-10 days later than a ‘typical’ season.

Spray Program

Over the January period we have kept fortnightly covers on both organic and conventionally managed blocks. A spray program targeting fruit and foliage, consisting of sulphur, Protector and Roots and Shoots has been followed organically, and this has been fairly similar for the conventional program as well. On the conventional blocks, Switch was used at prebunch closure, and Botryzen used on the organic blocks.

To date we haven’t seen any powdery or downy mildew in any of the blocks, which is encouraging, as disease pressure has certainly been there!

We are forever mindful of disease pressure from downy mildew so are monitoring for these conditions. If an infection period is forecast, we will be applying copper to the canopies pre these events and also post event.

Canopy management to date: 

– All blocks have been 100% leaf plucked around the bunch zone.

– Tucking wires have been clipped together with lock clips to hold foliage in wires better.

– All blocks have been trimmed once.

– Crop thinning has taken place across all blocks.

No differences were found in timing of completing these tasks between the organic and conventional systems.


We are currently completing our fourth pass of cultivation as the season has brought about significant weed growth. This is compared to three weed sprays in the conventional system. We have added a ‘wing piece’ to the cultivator blade, which is assisting in getting nice and close around the base of the vine. The resulting job is leaving a very clean undervine area. (See photo.)

As February approaches we are planning on doing a final trim and colour thin before the nets go on. Hopefully we have just finished our final cultivation pass and the rain stays at bay, as I have just noticed the start of veraison in the Merlot blocks!

Merlot: organic row on left, conventional on right