UK vineyard growth boosted by key agronomic advice
The UK wine industry is going from strength to strength, with around 1 million vines planted last year and an estimated 1.5 million being planted this year. According to the Wine Standards Board, there are now 501 separate vineyards, 2,330ha under vines, plus 133 wineries and/or wine producers, producing 5 million bottles of wine in the UK. The majority are members of WineGB Ltd which was formed in September 2017 as a result of unifying the UK Vineyards Association and the English Wine Producers.
Hutchinsons specialist vine agronomist Chris Cooper, who is also retained by WineGB to provide technical support, is well aware of what it takes to grow a successful crop under UK conditions. “Top class agronomy means getting the best from the crop and, with so many new entrants in the UK likely in the future, there is an even greater need to offer a professional helping hand throughout the season. The UK industry is expected to continue expanding and is predicted to double production from 5 million bottles to 10 million in 2020.
“Wine produced from GB-grown grapes is gaining International accolades and prizes with considerable regularity,” he adds.
Mr Cooper explains that his advice goes back well before the crop is planted. “Planting systems and variety selection are important for the wine to be produced and in the UK the top varieties we grow are Chardonnay (23 per cent of the area planted), Pinot Noir (22 per cent) and Bacchus (8 per cent). “Bacchus is our signature variety now as it suits UK growing conditions particularly well. Just as in New Zealand where the Sauvignon Blanc grape transformed the New Zealand wine industry, so Bacchus could do the same for the UK,” he explains.
Another grape variety that has hit the headlines is Albariňo. This variety is usually associated with the wet climate of North West Spain in Galicia. But recently a Chapel Down Albariňo wine made from grapes grown in 2014 in Sandhurst, Kent outperformed those of Galicia in a blind wine tasting in Madrid.
“Each month growers need to focus on different aspects of agronomy – pruning in the winter, disease control, pest control, weed control and nutrition in the spring and summer, and harvesting and wine making in the autumn,” Chris says.
“Keeping up with registrations in vines is challenging enough and I get involved in submitting applications for EAMU’s for the industry which allows more products to be used in cost-effective grape growing. With potentially many new entrants coming into wine growing, it is a lot more than just deciding to get involved and planting up. There is a depth of unique technical skills required to make sure that you make the best of what you have got,” says Mr Cooper.
“The cold and wet winter earlier in the year delayed vine development, such that vineyards were at least two to three weeks behind last year. However with a few warm days, bud burst occurred in late April and since then growth has been slow and steady.”
Another viticultural specialist in the Hutchinsons horticultural team is Rob Saunders who says that with warmer weather, wet, cold soils have started drying out allowing machinery to travel in the vineyards without damaging the ground; these are one of the benefits of grass alleys so spray applications including herbicide use can be undertaken and there may be a chance for some sub-soiling to break compacted areas, enhance the drainage and get some air movement into the soil. “Most of the canes are now tied down, being such a late season most of the sacrifice canes and extra buds have now been cut out although a few growers are still delaying tying down as they have bad memories of the late frost in 2017.”
“With bud burst the foliar fungicide applications have started, so growers should take the opportunity to reduce early infection of powdery mildew, downy mildew and phomopsis viticola,” he adds.
Chris Cooper agrees that early protection is important with fungicides and growers should start their control strategy sooner rather than later.
And he adds: “Growers can also reduce leaf bud mite substantially using a sulphur + adjuvant Wetcit mix early on. As growth continues, rogueing of mildew flag shoots can be stepped up and growers should be discussing their 2018 programmes for all diseases and pests for the coming year with their specialist vine agronomist.”
A range of tools for the orchard and vineyard grower
FarmGEM has been offering a range of mounted and trailed mist blower sprayers for a number of years both in the UK and across markets worldwide.
The Cyclone mist blower range provides tractor mounted machines of 200-, 300-, 400-, 600-, 800- or 1,000-litre capacities, and trailed machines with 1,000-, 1,500-, 2,000-, or 3,000-litre capacities. The distribution fan sizes become larger with the larger tank capacities and, although the Cyclone has a high standard specification, many options such as electric control, auto rate control, chemical induction hopper and tracking drawbar for the trailed machines are available.
Cyclone T and TT column and twin column models to suit tall trees, or Cyclone T2 twin fan for dense canopies are also in the range, says FarmGEM.
Additional machines now on offer are the Medi and Strong ranges of mulchers capable of handling vine and fruit tree branches. A third mulcher, the Open, has been designed for use in maize, oilseed rape stubble or cotton crops.
Also available is the Atlas, a versatile harvest and crop maintenance platform. A hydraulic scissor lift system allows work at varying heights, which is controlled from the platform up to a maximum of 2.6m. Each workstation has an extendable platform with a non-slip floor and safety railing providing excellent tree access. The high quality design and strong build can carry up to 900kg, and provides excellent stability and many safety features including a hydraulic failsafe system. If equipped with the optional Plus Air system, each workstation can then operate any pneumatically-operated tools such as pruning shears, loppers or saws.
The Atlas Motion is a self-propelled version of the platform giving unrivalled access and manoeuvrability throughout the orchard.
Compact and powerful tractors
The all-new Landini Rex 4 Series tractors will feature at the Fruit Focus show, representing a range of compact but powerful and durable power units suited to applications where space is limited, says distributor AgriArgo UK & Ireland.
The Rex 4 Series is a line-up spanning 69–111hp and available in different configurations to suit a number of applications.
The ‘F’ version, for example, can be configured to no more than 1.3m wide so it has potential as a heavy-duty yard and cubicle house scraping tractor, while the ultra-narrow version that can be set up barely 1m wide is designed primarily for vineyard work.
There are seven power outputs altogether and the new transmissions available provide a three-speed powershift option for the first time, enabling operators to quickly change ground speed when towing or working soil-engaging implements without losing momentum.
Fingertip power shuttle shifting between forward and reverse also makes life easier and more comfortable for the operator – as does the new front axle suspension as it cushions the front end of the tractor when passing over humps and hollows.
The tractors are available with an open platform or a new cab design with a virtually flat floor.
Power comes from a new 2.9-litre compact 4-cylinder engine providing similar outputs to the new models’ predecessors but there is additional torque at the lower end of the rev range to help lift performance.
New Eco PTO gearing and Eco 40kph transmission options help fuel consumption by lowering engine speeds in work and during transport, while larger fuel tanks reduce fill-up frequency, especially on the versions that get a 90-litre tank – almost 40 per cent up on the previous design.
Specialist fertilisers at fruit event
A range of its specialist fertilisers will be exhibited at the Fruit Focus show (Stand 510) at East Malling on July 25, Solufeed has announced.
As the use of plant biostimulants become more commonplace in horticulture and, according to Solufeed’s Jack Holden (left), the use of humic and fulvic acids is predicted to increase by 12 per cent per year.
Both are natural products derived from the microbial decomposition of ancient vegative or animal organic matter, the company says. Also, both have the ability to rejuvenate tired and depleted growing media whether soil or peat/coir based, it adds.
Made in the soil and recovered from drinking water, Fulvic 25 is a major food source for the beneficial soil microbes that are essential to a healthy soil and is approved by The Soil Association as suitable for organic growing, the company claims.
It also enhances root development, improves plant health and imparts greater resistance to disease or pest attack, adds the company.
The product is a liquid formulation that can be applied as the growing media is being prepared and repeated at least twice during the growing season, says Solufeed.