Peronospora (downy mildew) is very hard for organic farmers like us to combat in vintages like this

Peronospora (downy mildew) is extremely difficult to combat if you don’t use chemicals in the vineyards.

After the 2013 vintage, which will be remembered for the concentrated rainfall in the spring, the 2014 vintage was truly horrible because of the never-ending rains at the end of the growing season. The 2015 vintage was marked by intense drought and very high summer temperatures. I’ll remember the 2016 vintage as one of the most challenging for growers who farm organically (you can follow the vintage month by month by keeping up with our winery vintage diary).

I spent a lot of time pondering over whether or not I should write this post. They say that a good salesperson should only talk about the company’s successes.

But I’m a believer in sincerity and transparency and this is why I have chosen to share this not-so-pleasant aspect of the work that we do.

The months of June and July were devastating. The rain really put our preparedness, our vineyards, and our monitoring of the vines to the test.

Until a few weeks ago, we were still very happy with the work we were doing. The amount of copper we were spraying was (and still is) within a healthy limit. Our goal in reducing the use of copper had been achieved and the percentage of damaged bunches was acceptable. This was probably due to the fact that in the area affected by rain, 10-20 percent of the spots on the leaves had been blocked thanks to the use of a natural product (K&A Oomisine). All in all, the vines were healthy.

But today, after the umpteenth visit to the vineyards, we realized that the situation is getting worse and our hearts just sank into the abyss.

We have fought using the few weapons that were available to us. But evidently, copper and terroir and know-how weren’t enough in a vintage like this one.

Our vineyards in Monfumo, Maser, and 3 of the six hectares in Cornuda have small, insignificant problems (for the moment). The remaining vineyards have serious peronospora damage as you can see from the bunch in the photograph.

The only thing we can do now is to try to stop the infection with a couple of back-to-back treatments in the hope that the copper, when applied in greater but still reasonable amounts, doesn’t create problems for the vegetation.

Organic farming in vintages like this one forces us to come to terms with the indisputable fact that the force of Mother Nature — my goodness — is not easy to counter.

We need to accept our partial defeat and we need to keep on learning.

And as my friend Paolo says, “you made it through 2014 and you’ll make through 2016 as well. Then you will become old and wise and then you will die. That’s how it always is. Paranoia doesn’t do anyone any good.”

Author: Bele Casel

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