Organic wine growing in Marlborough is reducing significantly the amount of dangerous pesticides used in the region. With 1400 hectares either BioGro certified organic or in conversion, that equates to a full 1000 hectares of land no longer herbicide sprayed.
“In September 2007, 70% of Marlborough vineyard area was herbicide sprayed, anything from 100% blanket coverage to various width spray strips, and a range of dangerous pesticides used the rest of the year,” said Soil & Health-Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.(1)
“With 6% of Marlborough’s grape growing area under management to BioGro organic production rules, the Marlborough community and environment is spared drift from numerous very toxic sprays.”
“Organic standards are very strict about what chemicals can be used in organic production and both workers and neighbouring communities benefit from this.”
“The reduction of effectively 1000 continuous hectares from herbicide use, also benefits carbon sequestration and increases soil structure and soil life significantly.”
To 100 field day attendees, Organic Winegrowers New Zealand yesterday launched an Organic Focus Vineyard project in Marlborough. Over the next three years, the project will follow prominent vineyards in three wine regions as they are converted to organic production. As part of the project, Wither Hills are converting a portion of their Taylor River vineyard (Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir) to certified organic management. (2)
Wither Hills already have 40 ha in conversion to BioGro certified organic production. Mission Estate in Hawkes Bay and Gibbitson Valley Wines in Central Otago are the other focus vineyard participants, with Mission already reporting satisfaction with the organic regime, including economic gains, over conventional, from its first year pilot study.
“Conversion to organic viticulture in Marlborough follow early successes such as Seresin’s in Marlborough and a rapidly building international demand,” said Mr Browning.
“The theoretical economic convenience of harmful herbicides and pesticides has created areas such as Hawkes Bay and Marlborough as potential health risks, and anecdotal evidence points to increasing levels of cancers in both areas, so the very rapid shift to organics is good for communities and wine consumers.”
“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 dominant spray zones.”
“The spraydrift problem extends nationwide with a slow uptake of technologies that can restrict spray drift or recapture and recycle unused airborne sprays. These however do not address the blanket herbicide use on land.”
“The organic options not only reduce frost damage, but improve soil health and carbon sequestration.”
“Herbicide use is proven to reduce vine health through protein disruption and increases susceptibility to pest and disease. It also reduces grape storage life, and natural flavours appear to be rounder without herbicide use.”
“Clean organic alternatives to massive herbicide and pesticide are in keeping with New Zealand’s best brand, 100% Pure New Zealand, our clean green image, and Soil & Health’s vision of an Organic 2020.”
Disclosure: Steffan Browning is also a BioGro board member and Green Party Candidate for the Kaikoura Electorate.