The growers and their permanent workers started with plaiting this week. The shoots with the finest buds are selected and enjoy preference when placed on the trellis to receive optimal sunlight. This increases fertility which leads to optimal crop volumes without stressing the vines to overproduce. In turn this ensures that the necessary volumes are grown per hectare whilst not jeopardizing quality. Current weather conditions are slightly warmer compared to the previous year. Most important is to ensure that the vines build up enough cold units throughout the winter. In vine terms this means that they rest enough before pushing out new leaves and the flowers that eventually forms the bunches. The average temperatures in May were 28 degrees celsius in the day and 9 degrees celsius at night. Current dates are similar to that of last year which indicates that harvesting should commence around the same time. It is however still too early to confirm such dates.
The South African winter has moved in and the vines are going into a well-deserved resting phase while the growers are working hard, planning for the season ahead. Currently the vines are dropping their leaves and in the coming weeks all the vines will be completely naked. The temperatures of May in the Hex River valley ranged between 25 degrees celsius in the daytime and 5 degrees celsius at night. Temperatures may drop more in the coming weeks when more snow is expected. Cold units start to accumulate when the temperature drops below 10 degrees celsius. The Western Cape region is in the midst of one of the worst droughts over the past century. Followed by a late winter, water resources are sti ll low with average dam levels around 21%. Another El Niño is expected at the end of 2017, this will lead to another dry summer with little rain expected. The winter still needs to deliver more rain and snow on the mountains to increase the dam levels for the coming summer.Efforts are also made in the agriculture sector to improve water usage as far as possible.Increased hectares of seeded varieties are being removed and replaced with seedless varieties, especially in the HexRiver valley. Attention is also focused on soil balance, ensuring that the soil receives the right amount of fertilizer needed per area.
Semi commercial testing of plastic on new varieties and Crimson Seedless are being conducted in the different production regions. Placing a semi-permanent plastic structure over the grapes protects the developing bunches from rain and hail. It also helps creating a microclimate where ti me of harvest, even and bigger berry size and the color of the grapes (depending on variety) can be manipulated. Initial trails under plastic have shown a decrease of 20-30% less water use, while still delivering a good quality product. A food nutrition project is ongoing, where in collaboration with a plant nutrition expert, we are trying to determine the nutritional values of the different varieties. This is done by the sampling of soil, leaves and fruit from prestige blocks and then tracing it back to changes in plant nutrition at critical growth stages. The goal is to establish a guide for plant nutrition to best produce healthy grapes with high nutritional value. Continuing our efforts to export grapes adhering to MRL restrictions, we have already analyzed the past season’s data and have put together reports for each farming unit with key performance indicators. These indicators alert farmers to the MRL levels as tested during the season and correlates it to the quality of their fruit. We highlight where spray programs can be adjusted to be more effective yet less intrusive. The collection and examination of spray programs and records before, during and aft er harvest stays a high priority. With our world class growers and hands on production team, we’re ensured that all practices taking place is up to standard with our client requirements.