Feeding The Vineyard - Sustainability In Action

Feeding the Vineyard - Sustainability in Action

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PHOTO: Lastella and Le Vieux Pin’s vineyard manager Jody Subotin tests the temperature in his experimental compost pile.

Up on a hill between the Muscat vines at Lastella winery, three head-high rows of woodchips are baking away in the sun. Vineyard manager Jody Subotin probes the end of a pile with a two foot long temperature gauge, checking on the compost pile’s progress. At the end of one row, a large pile of grape skins and stems is steaming.

The enormous compost pile is the winery’s natural fertilizer experiment for 10 of their 70 acres of vines.

“We were inspired by the success of Okanagan tree farms and orchards using commercial compost,” explains Jody. “We haven’t used conventional fertilizer for years, and aren’t entirely happy with pellet organic fertilizer. This is our experiment to see if we can feed the vines using healthy, living composted waste material.”

The biomass base material is hog fuel, a thick mix of bark and organic matter from a nearby sawmill in Midway. The winery’s winemaking waste including skins and stems is being added to the pile through the crush season. Already, the winery is seeing savings in their waste management bill.

As the piles warm and degrade over the winter, Jody will be turning them to regulate the temperature and keep the compost cooking.

In the spring, a mineral blend will be added into the heavy composted material, to be spread down each row on 10 acres. The fertilizer doubles as mulch, suppressing weeds and providing an insulating surface layer. Jody will be monitoring irrigation, as he suspects the mulching will lower soil evaporation and retain groundwater for the vines.

“My hope is that this rich fertilizer will also support our goal of eliminating spraying,” says Jody. “We want the vines to be as healthy and resilient as possible, able to defend themselves against pests and competition.”

Enotecca, Lastella and Le Vieux Pin’s parent company, has a history of investing in information and innovation. Armed with a baseline of soil density and structure, as well as canopy health data from other assessment, the company will be able to measure the impact of the new composting system on their vineyards. The intention is to roll the program out over the complete 70 acres in the next three years.

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~Arnica Rowan