Term 2 – Week 4 – Organic Certification

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Burn Cottage Vineyard – biodynamic

This week we learnt about going through the organic certification process. There are a few different ways to go about it. Either through Bio-grow, Asure Quality or Demeter. The first two are organic certification only, Demeter is for biodynamic properties. Biodynamic is a different philosophy from organic but even more strict on inputs.

The organic certification process takes 3 years to complete. There are audits each year to ensure all criteria are being met – these carry on for the whole time a property is registered as organic.

We went to Burn Cottage Vineyard in Cromwell (I’ve had their Moonlight Race Pinot Noir before and it’s really nice) which is run bio-dynamically. They make their own compost from organic materials, have their own livestock on adjacent fields, use under-vine weeders for weed control, metal poles as opposed to tanalised wood, have other crops and areas planted with different species and use many other practices that make up the biodynamic system. They feel that all these things make a real contribution to the health of the vineyard and in turn the quality of the wine.

Some parts of biodynamics don’t make sense to me, but organic practices certainly do. It seems to me that if managed properly crops can be just as good as conventional growing, better for consumers, better for workers on the property and far better for the environment. I guess the only negatives are that it takes more planning and time to execute so more labour costs, i.e. hand weeding vs. spraying with herbicide.

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April collecting wood from a cherry tree for grafting

We also started collecting some wood for grafting. The wood is dormant now so can be collected and stored until next spring when it will grafted onto rootstock. It is important to take dormant wood so that when you graft it onto active rootstock in spring the graft union will have time to form. Otherwise the union would not form (callus) quickly enough to supply water or nutrients to the scion. It takes about 7 – 10 days for this to happen.

The dormant scion wood gets wrapped up in soaking wet newspaper, put in a plastic bags and stored in a fridge or cool-store.

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Propagation update – lots is happening in the potting shed and glasshouses. The Clematis marata seed I planted a few weeks ago has germinated and I have 3 seedlings! It doesn’t sound like much, but the seed was really old so I wasn’t sure if I would get anything.

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Clematis marata seedling

The kowhai we sowed last November were ready to be re-potted into 10cm pots.

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We also did some deciduous hardwood cuttings. I did Vitis ‘July Muscat’, a table grape. Hardwood cuttings are much longer than the other cuttings I have done (softwood, semi-softwood or herbaceous). They need all that energy stored in the stem. These are have gone into 10cm pots of wet perlite. You could leave them outside over winter but we’ve put these on the heat bed to get some roots going a bit more quickly.

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Weather wise, it’s feeling a lot more wintry now. Lots of trees with no leaves and mornings switching between either crisp frost or heavy fog. Some vineyards have already started pruning.

Last week’s weather:

weather

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