OPINION: Soil organic matter was a hot topic for environmentalists, ecologists and primary producers in 2020.
There are still plenty of brown-striped blocks of course, but they’re increasingly interspersed with a less coiffured look, with rows of insect-laden cover crops and fence lines of whimsical flowers.
They appear a little Bohemian, but these cover crops have a serious job to do, protecting soils, reducing herbicide use and attracting beneficial insects. Viticulturist conversations can easily cover the breadth of seeds sown in winter, the best flax to plant alongside a waterway, or indeed the best native ground cover to grow beneath a vine (see Villa Maria story).
Regenerative agriculture is the buzz phrase of the moment, as land users look to new ways to restore their soil health, posing questions about the ability to reduce chemical inputs, nurture soil microbes, and even sequester carbon. And whether growers are organic or conventional in practice, or a little bit of both, there’s an increasing understanding that soil health is king when it comes to good viticulture.
It’s perfect timing then, for New Zealand Winegrowers to make soil one of the six key focus areas of the Environment Strategy and Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand’s scorecards, to help the industry better understand the science and practice behind healthy soils. “It’s the one thing we have got that we can pass on in a better state than when we found it,” says viticulturist Nick Paulin. “If we get that right, the rest of it becomes easy.”
This edition of Winegrower has a focus on sustainability, and in particular soil regeneration and carbon reduction measures. We ran a similar theme in April, but the curse of Covid-19 rather stole the limelight, so we decided to continue a celebration of amazing initiatives happenings around the country.
Speaking of Covid (although not much in this magazine) the Upcoming Events page is back, after being put in hibernation over lockdown. Some events have been cancelled, but the show goes on for others, in an illustration of the resilience and brilliance of this industry.