Otago Winegrowers Embrace Organic Viticulture

Published: Mon 17 Nov 2008 12:37 PM
Central Otago Winegrowers Embrace Organic Viticulture
Central Otago Winegrowers are signing up to a dedicated organics programme, the first of its kind in New Zealand, designed for the region’s vineyards to become organic certified.
Launched in June, over 20 vineyards have joined the Central Organic Winegrowers (COW) programme, with workshops and seminars well attended by additional viticulturists in the region.
The most recent Weed Management Field Day, attracted over 40 vineyards to learn about one of the more challenging tasks on a vineyard, suppressing weeds with only the use of organic matter.
“Today’s workshop was extremely valuable to learn the multiple methods and machinery options available to eliminate different types of weeds growing in different soil types and applying this to your own vineyard, what works for one might not for another,” said Grant Rolston from Vinewires Viticulture.
John Callaghan, appointed as the coordinator for the programme, oversees the field days, seminars, workshops, website forum and is a mentor to advise and motivate members. Central Otago specialists are joined by nationwide experts from within the wine industry as well as agriculturalists across the board to teach new practices on areas such as soil management, composting, pests and disease.
“The programme is important to ensure the quality and soil heath of the region for future years. As well as being a great marketing tool for our wines in an increasingly competitive market, organic techniques can reduce vineyards money in the medium to long term,” said Mr Callaghan.
Becoming organic takes approximately three years in preparation before the certification process can begin. The COW programme creates a formal structure for vineyards to consult, learn and develop the knowledge acquired and is offered to all Central Otago Winegrowers Association (COWA) member vineyards on a voluntary sign-in basis.
Funding is crucial to the project, a significant grant from the Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) along with expert advice has enabled the project to start up and develop. COWA and SFS have also contributed towards the project.
Working in conjunction with Organic Winegrowers of New Zealand (OWNZ) the programme will act as a pilot project that can be replicated in other winegrowing regions throughout the country and aims to be an inspiration to the wider New Zealand viticulture industry.

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