Thursday, 16 December 2010

Inaugural UK Organic Vineyards Meeting

The first meeting of UK organic and biodynamic vineyards was held at Laverstoke Park Farm, near Basingstoke today.

Speakers included Ben Raskin from the Soil Association, Will Davenport from Davenport Vineyards, Vinodh Krishnamurthy from Laverstoke Park and Jane Awty from the UKVA sustainability group. Representatives from nine vineyards, as well as the Soil Association and WineSkills attended the meeting.

The main topic of the day was spray programmes for organic vineyards and much debate took place about the use of sulphur, copper, seranade, compost teas and other treatments used for disease control.

It was agreed that a second meeting should take place next year towards the end of June with a focus on Biodynamics and the practical issues associated with using compost teas.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mycorrhizal Fungi still appear to be working well

Mycorrhizal Fungi

When we planted the vines we dipped the roots in a product called Rootgrow, which is a mycorrhizal fungi from a company called PlantWorks. Mycorrhizal fungi normally occurs naturally in soil. It breaks down organic matter releasing nutrients particularly phosphates and can significantly increase root capacity. Unfortunately herbicides and modern farming techniques have significantly reduced the naturally occurring fungi. The idea with Rootgrow is to give new plant roots a kick start.

Last year we measured weight of the prunings from 100 vines that had been treated compared to 100 untreated vines for each variety which indicated that the product had resulted in nearly 10% additional growth. This year the results were similar overall but showed a significant variation between varieties:

Pinot Meunier  33% increase
Pinot Noir        11% decrease
Chardonnay     16% increase

The results for the Pinot Noir are probably misleading as most of the untreated block were very weak and therefore had to be pruned quite hard which artificially increased the weight of the prunings from the untreated vines.

Next years results should be more definitive. We will also try and measure the comparative quantity of fruit from the vines.

Never Mind the Weather

Nick Seymour and Alex with the Weather Station

We are now proud owners of a weather station which was delivered and installed at the vineyard yesterday by Nick Seymour.

The weather is of course a major factor in our ability to produce quality fruit. By building up weather patterns over a period of time it will help us to predict, and therefore manage, the risks of pests and disease. It will also allow us to understand how the timing of flowering, berry setting and ripening effects the quality of the grapes.

The data that is collected includes temperature (ground and air), relative humidity, wind speed and solar radiation. It is updated on the web every 30 minutes so we can see from the comfort of our homes exactly what the weather is doing at any given time. The station can also send text messages to warn us of falling temperatures and the risk of frost. When this happens we'll have to get up in the middle of the night and put in place frost protection measures, which will probably include lighting bougies (oil lamps) and driving the tractor up and down the rows with a frostbuster which is like a giant warm air convection heater!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Albury Vineyard features on BBC Radio Surrey

Much to my suprise I was contacted by BBC Radio Surrey last week who were keen to interview me about the vineyard. Having overcome my nerves, my vanity got the better of me and I agreed to be interviewed on a programme called "Dig It", BBC Surrey's anwer to Gardeners' Question Time.

For those of you who are desperate to hear the interview you can get to it by clicking on the following link. It's about 35 mins from the start and only lasts for about 5 minutes.

No major cock-ups but I think that I was right not to pursue a career as a radio presenter!