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In the Vineyard

Viticulture forever, a sustainability mantra

Grapegrowing must be tailored to this province’s unique environmental characteristics.

By Gary Strachan D

o our vineyards adapt to their environment or does the environment adapt to our

vineyards? It’s sort of a chicken-and- egg question isn’t it? If our vineyards are adapted to the

environment, then it follows that we must be using practices that are specific to British Columbia, because there is no other viticultural region with the same conditions as B.C. No other semi-arid region has the

extreme latitude as B.C. with long day length at mid-summer and rapidly decreasing day length as we approach harvest. For example, bud break in B.C. is

later than many other wine regions, but harvest is at similar dates. In other words, our season is compressed into fewer days than regions at less extreme latitudes. Perhaps with fewer days in our

growing season, we require fewer sprays to control infections. On the other hand, there are established ways to minimize sprays. Don’t just use the calendar; assess the risk of an infection and don’t spray until the risk has increased. The same logic applies to fertilizing

the vineyard. Most soils in B.C. have less Boron than is required for fruit set in grapes, therefore our vineyards require a routine Boron application each year. On the other hand, the NPK majors

and some trace elements vary enormously with both the cultivated history of each vineyard and the fundamental soil type. In order to not only maintain soil

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Winter 2012-13

fertility but to assure long-term productivity, the timing and level of application must be adjusted according to need. Sandy soils have little ability to

maintain reserves of soluble elements, thus there is an interaction between irrigation level and fertilizer requirement. Darker soils with organic content or soils with higher clay content are able to maintain reserves of soluble minerals because they bind water more closely. These soils not only require less irrigation, they also require less frequent fertilization. It may seem that the soils of a

vineyard are stable and unchanging, but in fact they evolve over time according to the way in which they are managed. Sandy soils can gradually achieve

increased water holding capacity, not only from the application of mulches and compost, but also from careful management of vegetation in vineyard corridors. The result of continuous clean cultivation of a vineyard is not only a decline in organic matter, but also a decline in soil biota such as earthworms and mycorrhizae. The other consequence is that a

compaction zone will develop at the depth of cultivation. The annual cycle of growth and death of plants adds organic matter to soils if they are undisturbed by cultivation. The type of vegetation in vineyard corridors also has a long-term effect.

No it's not a grave. It's a soil pit, dug to assess the depth of top soil and the composition of sub soil, prior to planting a vineyard.

Grasses require nitrogen and unless it is applied, the nitrogen content of the vineyard soil will gradually decline. Properly managed legumes fix

nitrogen and their annual cycle can contribute nitrate to the vineyard. One management option is that grasses can assist the devigoration of a vineyard. In the dry areas of B.C., one option

for vineyard management is regulated deficit irrigation (RDI). There are several considerations that can make the difference between success or failure of this option. The first is that on soils with high water holding capacity, the lag time between water

Since the beginning of BC Wines, Flory Bosa has devoted her talents to ensuring the best supplies for her customers. Flory joined the industry in 1989, and worked with the BC Amateur Winemaker Association. Today she serves the needs of small, medium and large wineries. If you want to get the best from your grapes, come to Bosa. Where wine, and winemakers, matter.

6908 PalmAvenue Burnaby BC 6044739463

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