Friday, 10 April 2009

The Organic Conversion Process

Early on in the project I made a decision that Albury Vineyard would be organic. Having spoken to a number of organic vineyard owners in the UK and Australia I was convinced that over a period of time the organic process would produce better fruit and ultimately better quality wine. It's also much more friendly to the environment which is a key consideration both ethically and commercially. The downside is that it makes the establishment of a vineyard even harder especially in respect of weed control. Anyway, the decision has been made and the field has to now be converted to an organic regime.

I have chosen to use Organic Farmers and Growers as an authentication body, who have been extremely helpful in helping me to understand the organic conversion process for the field that will become the vineyard. Defra's Organic Conversion Information Service (OCIS) have also been very useful, providing me with a half day's free on-site consultancy. The bottom line is that I can do anything I like to the land until the vines are planted but then I have to make sure that all treatments for weed and disease control as well as any composts or fertilisers that I use are certified as organic or, if an organic product isn't available, that I get a derogation for the product concerned. Accurate records of course will have to be maintained at all times!

The process is further complicated as we're only planting 5 acres this year which means that 8 acres will need a cover crop to keep the weeds at bay and add to the nutrients in the soil. As organic seeds are very expensive I don't want to convert this part of the field until I'm ready to plant it with vines. The solution is a temporary fence with a 10 metre buffer zone between the none organic land and the plants.