By Jacqueline Maclaurin
Viticultural Technician, Wither Hills
Buds are bursting and ground work is being started. After a slightly slow start to the season, growth is starting to appear and the first cover spray will be applied shortly.
The Pinot Noir blocks have been ripped using a Braun para plough in the centre of the inter-row to try to break up the soil and allow the fertiliser to find its way to the roots and the roots to find nutrients. It was decided to do both the organic and conventional blocks so an even comparison on the effects could be made. The soil surface largely remains undisturbed, just a slight ridge results which can then be rolled down to make a level inter-row. It was interesting to see how easily the ripper went into the soil in both blocks, the result being pretty even. Next year we will hope to make the ripping line wider into the wheel tracks to break up this area.
Ground work is also being started so the buckwheat and Phacelia can be sown in the organic blocks in the next couple of weeks to achieve flowering in December. This will be sown at a rate of 35kg/ha for buckwheat and 3kg/ha for Phacelia. Once flowering we will top every 4th bay to encourage a longer flowering for the duration of the summer, bringing in beneficial insects. We will also look to put out sticky cards to monitor the numbers of insects in the organic and conventional blocks.
Our spray programme is the same as last season, although we will monitor nutrient levels and may look at foliar application before and after flowering if required.