How we manage the threats to our vines


The last time I wrote about some of our vineyard management practices was here, in November 2012.

The biggest threat to the health of vines is the leaf roll virus. It is terrible to see a vine that has been infected.

The vector, or carrier, of this virus is the mealy bug.

One of the things we have done is put up hormone disruptors so that the males cannot scent the females.

The most effective way we have found though, is to leave our dandelion plants to grow in the vineyard.


In the picture above you can see small white spots which are mealy bug eggs. By having dandelion growing in the vines we create a home for the mealy bug. Conventionally the full surface of the vineyard floor is sprayed with a herbicide (mostly the micronutrient chelating carcinogen Glyphosate, which all South Africans consume daily. Click here for more on this). Killing the cover crop means that the mealy bug has to find a home elsewhere which is the vine and then the soil is bare which means it gets 20 Celsius hotter than covered soil which means a stressed plant and more irrigation required.

Other pests in the vines include birds that love to eat the ripe fruit. We have put up a Scarem kite. See the video below. Handheld with my GoPro and unedited as all the videos on this site. Note towards the end of the video how dry it is on the farm. We are having a brutal summer. These kites are up in the BioDynamically managed Ezibusisweni Chenin Blanc vineyard which produces the Chenin Blanc as well as the Straw Wine. This is a dryland vineyard which means it gets no irrigation. Very tough on the plants but the wines show the character of the vine.

You will also note that at the end of the vineyard rows there are yellow flowers. This is fennel which we plant specifically to attract the wasps that parasitise the mealy bug. The picture below shows the fennel in one of our Cabernet Sauvignon blocks.


Some of our organic farm wines are available at the wine shop our farm, Spier near Stellenbosch.


24 January 2016

2 Responses

  1. That scarem kite looks very promising, but how low does it hang in nil wind? Did you turn the camera away just as it was about to get tangled in the vineyard wires?

    Have you tried the kite near your chickens at all? I have a small fig orchard surrounded by my chicken run and want to keep the small birds off the figs without stressing my laying hens…


    1. Tiaan

      The string was too long. Now that I have shortened it, it flies a long way above the vines.

      I have not tested it on my chickens yet. Once the grapes have been harvested I will test it on my chickens

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