Organic agriculture is a method of farming in which only materials derived from natural sources are used in the agricultural operation. For vineyards, this includes, but is not limited to any fertilizers, pesticides, and trellis materials used in the vineyard.

A certified organic farming operation is a farming operation that can prove with hard documents that the vineyard under its care is being farmed exclusively organically. The certification process contains a laundry list of requirements to facilitate a guarantee to the consumer that the vineyard and grapes were farmed organically. The vineyard and its accompanying documents are inspected annually to verify that the farming operation is in compliance with all the organic requirements.

Organic agriculture requires a different approach to the management of the common pests and diseases of grapevines from that of non-organic “conventional” farming and is frequently more challenging. Organic agriculture requires a more proactive approach and the use of a diversity of methods to control and prevent problems. This concept must be applied to the fertility of the soil as well as the health of the grapevines.

Primary pests and diseases of grapevines include Grapevine Powdery Mildew, Botrytis Bunch rot, Eutypa, Leafhoppers, Mealybugs, and Spider Mites, to name a few. Here are a few examples of how organic agriculture contrasts to non-organic agriculture:

In order to control grapevine powdery mildew, a non-organic vineyard has more then two dozen options or control measures while an organic vineyard has approximately five. The five organic options are also somewhat less efficacious compared to the non-organic materials, which requires more vigilance in the vineyard.

A non-organic vineyard that has a problem with spider mites might apply an insecticide to eliminate the problem insect, however on an organic ranch an insect predator of spider mites would be released in the vineyard to consume and control a spider mite problem. The beneficial insects must be released at the appropriate time, prior to the presence of a very large population of the problem spider mite; otherwise the beneficial insects will be ineffective.

A vineyard with low soil fertility can very easily and quickly be amended with non-organic fertilizer. The non-organic fertilizers contain high concentrations of the major plant nutrients and are quickly available to the plant. The organic fertilizers contain low concentrations of the major plant nutrients and these nutrient are available to the plant at a reduced speed. Weed control in an organic vineyard can be a difficult task as there are no organic herbicides.

Specialized weed control equipment is often required to effectively manage the weed problem in a vineyard (turnsill, hoeplow, French plow). Vineyard weeds will compete with the grapevines for water and plant nutrients, hindering their development and yield.



© Jack Neal & Son, Inc.