Season One results

We are pleased to release the monitoring data from the first year of the Organic Focus Vineyard project. This report includes information on pest and disease incidence, maturity and yields, soil moisture and irrigation, and production costs, for both conventional and organic grape varieties on all three focus vineyards during the first growing season in conversion to organic production, 2011-2012.

Vineyard representatives explain results at the project winter seminar in Marlborough. From left to right: Rex Butt, Wither Hills (main project contact Jacqueline Maclaurin was away); Caine Thompson, Mission Estate; Max Marriott, Vinewise Viticulture/Gibbston Valley Wines; while project team member Jonathan Hamlet (standing) looks on.

You can download the report here (3.8 MB PDF): Organic Focus Vineyard annual report, 2011-12

If you want to see all the nitty gritty of where the numbers came from, the full data report produced by Fruition Horticulture is too big to post here, but you may obtain an emailed copy from the project manager Rebecca Reider, organicrebecca@xtra.co.nz.

If you want to see the observational/experiential reports from each vineyard manager:

Central Otago: Gibbston Valley Manager’s Report 2012
Marlborough: Wither Hills Manager’s report 2012
Hawkes Bay: Mission Estate Manager’s Report 2012

If you want to see the full financial cost data for all growing regimes, here it is: Full costings 2011-12

And if you want to see how the vineyards looked, be sure to check out the various slideshows here on the Results page.

Here’s the Executive Summary:

The Organic Focus Vineyard Project is a three-year project monitoring vineyards in three wine regions in New Zealand as they convert from conventional to certified organic vineyard management. The project has two major aims: to demonstrate the practices and management decisions associated with organic growing; and to monitor and compare the outcomes of organic and conventional growing regimes across a number of variables, including pest and disease levels, harvest results (yield and ripening), soil health, plant nutrition, and financial costs.

Regular field days at all focus vineyards, and a project website featuring monthly commentaries by the vineyard managers, serve to document the organic conversion process in real time for the wine industry to witness, sharing the focus vineyards’ experiences and lessons in organic growing.

This report presents results from the focus vineyards’ first year in organic conversion. Pest and disease levels were similar between organic and conventional growing regimes for all regions and grape varieties, with the exception of a significant crop loss to botrytis in Central Otago’s conventional Pinot Gris. Harvest results were mixed across the country, with neither organic nor conventional consistently producing higher yields across all grape varieties. Financial costs were mixed, with the organic regime being slightly cheaper to run in Hawkes Bay, but more expensive to run in Central Otago and Marlborough. However, some cost differences were attributable to one-off costs associated with the organic vineyards’ first year in conversion to organic management. Data from the following two seasons will increase our ability to draw more robust conclusions about the organic conversion process and the potential differences between organic and conventionally managed vineyards.

A caveat in interpreting results: because this trial was done on existing commercial vineyards which were not planted specifically for this trial, there are a number of differences between the conventional and organic vines for some varieties involved in the trial, such as clone and rootstock. Thus, differences observed may be due to differences in clone or rootstock or other non-controlled variables that cannot be attributed to conventional vs. organic management practices.