WineGB, the industry body, has just confirmed that around 3 million vines were planted this year – equating to an additional 690 hectares of vineyards and a 24% increase in the overall land under vine. This means the UK now has an estimated 3,500 hectares of vineyards. Amongst the questions this all poses is once planted how do you get the best from your vineyard to justify the very high investment costs of a crop which takes three years till the first harvest and if you are making sparkling wine from the grapes (and 69% of the wines produced now are sparkling) then you are facing another two years before you have a single bottle to sell.
As crop protection specialists Certis say in their recently published The Vine Growers Product Guide “Consistent productivity is difficult to achieve with British weather systems being so variable year to year”. Viticultural consultant Duncan McNeil quoted in “Vine Growers Year Book & Buyers Guide 2018” says English sparkling wine yields need to hit a long term average of 8t/ha, while only currently achieving 3t/ha. After taking into account the importance of choosing the right site, getting planting and establishment of young vines right and escaping a late spring frost; keeping the vines healthy is the next vital step to making a success of producing quality grapes.
Despite all the enthusiasm for this new crop we are still small on a global scale – Champagne has around 34,000ha of vines planted – but the recent phenomenal growth reflects the industry’s confidence especially after the near perfect growing year and harvest of 2018. A reflection of our small size is the limited availability of crop protection solutions for grapevine growers in the UK. Recognising this Certis has developed a wide range of conventional and biorational crop solutions to help develop innovative IPM strategies, vital for sustainable production.
The aim behind the twenty page Certis Vine Growers Product Guide is to provide both sound cultural advice and a comprehensive guide to what to look out for throughout the vine growing year. For instance under the section on key diseases part of the advice is to; “Consider nutrient status of plants and the general health status of the vineyard. Manage vineyard trellising and airﬂow to minimise leaf wetness, and reduce leaf litter left on the ground as this can be a source of inoculum.” The product guide demonstrates that Certis have a unique vine portfolio of products, some with organic growing approval as well, offering suggestions and solutions to problems from bud burst to leaf fall. There are well illustrated sections on what diseases and pests to look for - invaluable for a beginner but also a useful reminder for the more experienced.
Selchuk (Semo) Kurtev, IPM Manager at Certis says that unlike arable crops which have always attracted investment in R&D for full on label approval, vines in the UK are considered a niche crop so growers only have a limited list of crop protection products. “Certis Europe has recognised that we can help UK vine growers because we can bring our experience of working in France where vines are a major crop by supporting a number of our products with an on-label approval. A good example is Cuprokylt which is a protectant fungicide containing (50% w/w) copper oxychloride for the control of downy mildew, anthracnose and bacterial diseases of grape vines”. Semo also points out that the loss of actives has emphasised the need for more biorational crop solutions and Certis have a number including Finalsan a non-selective bio-herbicide with full label approval for use against annual and perennial weeds, mosses and algae. “We want to bring sustainable solutions to UK vine growers whilst recognising that no one company can work on its own.”