The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

A successful harvest building on six years with zero herbicide and insecticide use!

The 2023 season has proven itself to be one of mixed fortunes. Many are struggling with large clusters and large yields but are having to deal with the usual suspects of mildews and Botrytis and with reaching adequate maturity levels. At the same time, others are celebrating a bumper crop!

The season started well at Plumpton College's Rock Lodge Vineyard; budburst across all varieties was in keeping with the yearly average. The reasonable weather continued into late spring, with no frost, providing good conditions for flowering. July, however, turned out to be overcast and wet, and this continued into August - a damp and dull summer.

For many, the dreaded Downy mildew started to cause problems across Europe earlier in the year. Mild and humid conditions brought on by the overcast skies provide ideal conditions. Some good news, though, is that although ideal conditions for Downy, the lack of long periods of hot sunshine did mean that Powdery mildew was not much of a worry this year.

Things brightened up as we entered September, and a last-minute, mini-Indian summer was much needed. Veraison and ripening was increased, and I am sure some vineyards, lucky enough to be in a good spot, will be celebrating a plentiful and healthy harvest! A final sting in the tail, which, given the overcast summer, was not a surprise, was the emergence of plague proportions of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) at the beginning of October. The heavy rain in mid-September led to some berry splitting, which attracted the pest into the fruit zone, given that a single female can lay over 300 eggs and that those eggs take little more than a week to hatch into adults. 

We had put out all the food traps that we have, and having been insecticide-free for six years now, we have a healthy number of beneficial predatory creatures to help out, but the little blighters still made a sustained attack on the Pinot Noir – so we harvested it as quick as we could!

Overall, it was a good year for Rock Lodge Vineyard. Six years with zero herbicide and insecticide use, no Downy mildew all season, very little Powdery mildew and very little Botrytis (so far), a good yield, albeit a little under-ripe. In fact, all looked good if it wasn't for that pesky fruit fly…

Do you know someone interested in a career change in the wine production or business industry? Plumpton College is home to the UK's only Wine Centre of Excellence, offering undergraduate, postgraduate, WSET and leisure courses.

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