Organic and conventional net similar results in Hawkes Bay, year one

By Caine Thompson

Viticulturist, Mission Estate

With the completion of year one of the organics project at our Mere Road vineyard, we turn to the onset of year two of the program after learning a lot about different growing systems over the past twelve months.

A challenging season in Hawkes Bay put significant pressure on both the organic and conventional growing regimes in terms of powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis. With regular rainfall throughout the year, weed growth was also persistent, requiring constant attention and control.

Overall we were very pleased with how both systems performed in a challenging season. We found that weed control required more passes organically than conventionally, which increased the cost of undervine management. However we achieved very good weed control in the organic blocks with our undervine cultivator, which was encouraging. As a result we didn’t see any yield differences in year one, which I believe is partially due to keeping this competition at bay. The botrytis crop loss in both regimes was under 1.5% at harvest which was a good outcome. We also achieved good control of powdery and downy mildew under both systems using different approaches and products, again very encouraging in a high pressure season.

Fruit quality between both regimes was also very similar, with no clear differences between treatments.

The higher cultivation costs in the organic block, were offset during the season with a reduction in agrichemical costs in the organic system, so both organic and conventional systems ended up costing a very similar amount to grow per hectare.

We were very pleased with how the organic system compared to the conventional system in year one as we now look to the season ahead.

We have just completed our first ‘mounding up’ cultivation phase and it is remarkable to already see how much easier the soil is ‘turning over’ compared to last season after a year of cultivation.

Bring on bud burst!!

Going into season two: Conventional Syrah on left, organic on right