Marlborough vineyard herbicide use now touching 70% soil coverage

The Soil & Health Association is calling for Sustainable Wine Growing to lift its game, as close to 70% of Marlborough’s grape growing area is currently herbicide sprayed,” said spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“No wonder the industry changed its marketing strategy away from ‘The Riches Of a Clean Green Land.’”

“With excellent organic management alternatives now in use, it would have been better to aspire to giving credibility to ‘the riches of a clean green land,’ rather than putting the health of the community and the reputation of New Zealand at risk.”

A recent $100,000 rebranding with the “Pure Discovery” tagline was launched to replace a 15-year-old generic brand line ‘The Riches Of a Clean Green Land.’

“Pure Discovery may soon be about the aquifers and health of communities near the vineyards of New Zealand as the herbicide active ingredients, metabolites and surfactants leach and drift,” said Browning.

“While some vineyards are using organic management techniques and others a permanent 30% land area under-vine spray strip, the current practice of complete herbicide burning every second path as well as the under-vine strips, or frequently 100% of the surface area, to assist in frost protection, is making Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, a Herbicide Valley with an estimated 70% of vineyards sprayed with herbicide.”

While many operators say that it is ‘just Roundup or glyphosphate’, Monsanto agreed 10 years ago to discontinue the use of terms such as “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly” in all advertising of glyphosate-containing products in New York state and to pay $50,000 toward the state’s costs of pursuing the case.

“According to the state, Monsanto advertisements had also implied that the risks of products such as Roundup are the same as those of the active ingredient, glyphosate, and did not take into account the possible risks associated with the product’s other ingredients.”

“Some surfactants and glyphosphate break down products, and also Amitrole another widely used herbicide, are known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors,” said Browning.

“Denmark has restrictions on glyphosphate to prevent groundwater contamination and local authorities there are being proactive to encourage more sustainable management.”

“The economic convenience of harmful herbicides and pesticides is creating areas such as Hawkes Bay and Marlborough as potential health risks, and anecdotal evidence points to increasing levels of cancers in both areas,” said Browning. “Endocrine disruptors are also involved with the sprays and in Marlborough the main population areas of Blenheim, Renwick and Seddon are surrounded or downwind of the spray zone.”

“The spraydrift problem extends nationwide with a slow uptake of available technology that can restrict spray drift and can recapture and recycle unused airborne sprays. This however does not address the blanket herbicide spraying of land.”

“Organic options, like green crop cultivation, mulching, compost application and the use of effective micro-organisms, not only reduce frost damage, but also improve soil health and take carbon dioxide out of the air to be stored as soil carbon.”

“Herbicide use is proven to reduce vine health through protein disruption, and because beneficial soil and plant organisms are killed, there is an increased susceptibility to pest and disease,” said Nicole Masters of biological soil consultants, EcoAgriLogic. “Herbicides also reduce grape storage life, and natural flavours can also be expected to be rounder without their use.”

“Clean alternatives to massive herbicide and pesticide use must be implemented in keeping with Brand New Zealand’s clean green 100% Pure image, and Soil & Health’s vision of an Organic 2020,” said Browning.

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