Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 Spray Program

I’ve written about protecting the vines from fungal disease before, but I thought some readers might be interested in what actually gets sprayed on the vines during the course of a year. But first a bit of context:

Grapevines are very sensitive to fungal diseases. In almost every wine producing region it is necessary spray fungicides to ensure a commercial crop. In Burgundy, with our rather damp summer climate, an unprotected vineyard would produce nothing most years. See below an intentionally unsprayed witness section of my Bourgogne vineyard; ravaged by Mildew and Oidium it will not make it into the wine!

More context: I have been farming organically since 2005. A significant implication of this is that it restricts the choice of fungicides to simple compounds which are assumed safe, because of their everyday nature. Since 2005 the only fungicides that I have used are: Sulfur, various salts of Copper, skimmed milk, whey, and Fenugreek flour.

Unsurprisingly these products are less effective than the synthetic fungicides available to non-organic farmers. In practice this means that an organic grower will spray more often to achieve the same result, and in a very difficult year (say roughly 1 in 10, in Burgundy) is likely to lose quantity and/or quality.

I am attracted to the effectiveness of the synthetic fungicides, but wonder whether we know enough about their effects on our health, and that of the environment, to justify their use? I have opened this blog to comments in case anyone wishes to voice an opinion.

In any case I feel more comfortable publishing this spray program than one which might contain molecules called dimethomorph, pyraclostrobin or tebuconazole!

I’ll leave you with a photo of the grapes as assurance that they are healthy!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello David,

I found this blog posting very interesting, and reassuring. I get my first vines in 4 weeks and I think quite a bit about spraying. Seeing that table is great.
As to chemicals compared to organic argument, I listen to the wife... She is a doctor and sees more and more of cancer cases in the young that she would have normally expected to have seen in older people. When she asks their profession they are either farmers or people who live on a farm. She now shops organic...
Putting the marketing and medical effects on consumers from pesticides in the wine aside, on a purely personal level my choice is made, and I will be an organic farmer.

Great blog by the way ! I love that buggy.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca Magill said...

Hi David

Apologies for contacting you through this blog, but Tony Milanowski at Plumpton in the UK recommended that I get in contact with you.

I am doing some filming with Oz Clarke in Calais on Sunday and I am looking to track down some local hooch producers (also called eau de vie) in northern France.

I don't know if you would know of anyone, or indeed someone is a bouilleur ambulante in that area.

If you could be of help I would be so grateful if you could get in contact with me on,



5:15 PM  
Anonymous Andy Logan said...

Hi David.

I thought I’d add a comment from a consumer’s perspective.

Clearly as a vigneron you operate a commercial enterprise and therefore your first priority is to ensure that your vines produce the wherewithal to make wine. No doubt your decision to farm organically was made with that fact in mind. I expect however that the decision to take the organic route was probably made more for perceived overall qualitative reasons.

I certainly agree with the sentiment behind Anonymous’s post that the fewer chemicals employed in the vineyard the better. I would personally prefer to drink wine made from grapes uncontaminated, as far as possible, by unpronounceable chemicals with unknown potential health implications, but I fear that, especially in financially straitened times, the bottom line for many consumers is price rather than principle (or, up to a point, even quality). Bearing in mind what you say about the need to apply organic fungicides frequently and their relative ineffectiveness, I imagine the necessary corollary is that wines from vineyards run on an organic basis will be correspondingly more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. Perhaps that is less important to a smaller volume producer (and I would hope that might long continue) but I fear that commercial reality might, unfortunately, ultimately prove to be the greatest obstacle to producers choosing the organic alternative.

Best wishes.


6:00 PM  
Anonymous Ales Svatos said...

Dear David
very interesting spray program. I know copper oxide, hydroxide and sulphur effects. But did not hear about other stuff like fenugreek flour used against odium. Could you tell me the reason of using it? There are some natural products in those effecting odium?
One comment. Many organic growers are preventing any chemicals in the spray scheme, but using large amounts of copper. This is highly phytotoxic metal and will stay in soil for ever. From this perspective not very beneficial for the soil and soil microorganisms.
I am making wine in Czech republic and also trying to find minimal chemical treatment in my vineyard. So more information will be nice.
Great web!
Yours Ales

3:10 PM  
Blogger David Clark said...

Hi Ales,

Sorry I have been very slow to reply. You have probably seen my 2011 spray program by now!

Anyway, the fenugreek flour is a commercial product in France (brand name Stifénia) which is authorized for use on oidium. It has apparently shown some effectiveness in trials, but I haven’t had much luck in our conditions and have stopped using it. However, milk based products do seem to have some effectiveness against oidium and I think you will find lots of information about that from the web.

I agree that Copper is far from an ideal fungicide, but I haven’t found anything I am more comfortable spraying to control mildew. I think the best anyone can do it is keep themselves informed of what is available and then make a personal decision based on their circumstances.

Good luck with your vineyard and do be in touch if you have more questions.


10:38 AM  

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