2. SOIL MOISTURE MANAGEMENT
DV du Toit of Nooitgedacht, Overhex, discusses adjustments in irrigation management based on neutron moisture readings and plant reaction with the VinPro viticultural consultant, Schalk du Toit. DV du Toit was the first producer in the Breede River valley to spray a wine grape block commercially according to the automatic disease warning models.
Optimum soil moisture management is a critical factor in the further improvement of grape quality. The purpose of optimum soil moisture management is to balance growth vigour so that smaller berries with more concentrated grape flavours can develop. (Photo 2) The goal is meaningful reduction of production levels, particularly in premium wine grape cultivars, resulting in better wine quality. The wine farmers of the Breede River valley are leaders with regard to improved management and monitoring of soil water, considering that the soil moisture content of a few hundred wine grape blocks is monitored on a weekly basis. This represents approximately 5% of the region’s total wine grape surface.
3. BLOCK COMPETITION
Schalk du Toit of VinPro hands the block competition trophy to the 1999 winner, Hennie du Preez of Excelsior Estate.
Worcester is the first district to obtain sponsorship for the VinPro/Winetech block competition. Over the past two years the sponsorship enabled us to award more than R16 000 worth of prizes to producers. Novartis has been sponsoring the luncheon for the past few years. Worcester’s block competition is also particularly well supported and the past two years more than 100 people attended the farmers’ open day. (Photo 3)
4. TECHNOLOGICAL INFORMATION SEMINARS
Over the past few years, VinPro has been conducting hugely successful technology transfer information seminars. Topics such as mechanisation, weed control, irrigation and pest and disease control are covered in specialised sessions. Two years ago, the mechanisation information seminar was attended by a record number of 180 participants.
5. SPECIALIST VINEYARD STUDY GROUPS
The group consists of a core group of leader farmers from each farming area in the Worcester region. Practical demonstration trials are conducted on farm level to test and improve new technology in actual practice. The meetings also serve as a communication medium to introduce new technology to the producers. Stanley Louw of Opstal Estate is chairman and Pierre Snyman (VinPro) secretary of the Worcester Vineyard Study Group.
6. WEATHER STATION PROJECT
The first automatic weather station in Worcester was installed on Johan du Plessis’ farm Eendrag in the Overhex farming area in 1997. Schalk du Toit of VinPro initiated the weather station project.
The automatic weather station project was initiated by VinPro viticultural consultants in the Breede River valley in 1997. The goal of the weather station project is as follows:
- The latest weather data information is processed daily by ISWC (Institute for Soil, Water and Climate) to determine infection levels for powdery and downy mildew.
- Historic climatic data is used to make more accurate forecasts about crops and crop trends.
- It is an aid to determine/forecast budding, flowering, veraison and ripening dates.
- Cold units are determined to improve accurate usage of dormancy interrupting substances.
- Processed evaporation data is used to adjust water requirement of wine grapes according to changing climatic conditions.
- Future programme development will attempt to forecast frost more accurately.
- Worcester is the only district where the processed weather station information is controlled by a viticultural consultant for added value before it is faxed to cellars and producers. The weather data is available on internet for paying customers. The Novartis sponsorship is used for partial financial support of the project.
The above factors partly explain why the Breede River valley producers are considered forerunners with regard to the application of technology. One of the goals of VinPro Consultation Service is to keep producers at the forefront of technology so that grape quality and profitability can be continuously improved. Strategically, the above-mentioned structure places the Breede River valley producers in a unique position.
To survive, producers will have to produce wines that are competitive internationally, are of exceptional quality, offer good value for money and contain a minimum of spraying residues. The Breede River valley already has a country-wide reputation for four unique wines – De Wetshof Chardonnay, Nuy Muscadel, Du Toitskloof Riesling and Zandvliet Shiraz. These wines are known for exceptional achievement on an ongoing basis over the past decade. The challenge for wine grape producers and winemakers is to produce “ICON” or “IMAGE BUILDING” wines from noble cultivars that perform consistently well on the local and international markets. This will ensure that the region’s quality image is elevated to a class of its own.
In the growth tube trial, vines were uprooted to determine vine mass.
The grafting of a vineyard has just been completed. Pictured is a winter bud on a summer shoot, Pinotage on White French.
Trials were conducted on a vineyard with frost damage so that a strategy could be drawn up for Worcester.
Willie Botha of Goudini conducted a growth tube trial to evaluate various growth tubes in a block of Pinotage.
Schalk du Toit, regional manager, VinPro Consultation Service, Worcester