Organic Farming Practices and Conventional Farming Practices: Fruit/Wine Quality

Two newly planted Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards were chosen for this study, one in Paso Robles and the other near Bradley in southern Monterey County. Each site consisted of a 40-acre parcel dedicated to organic production adjacent, but not co-mingled, with a conventionally farmed vineyard that employed recognized best farming practices. Vineyard Professional Services is responsible for the daily operations of the vineyards. Cal Poly personnel are responsible for cost analysis and research associated with this project in conjunction with VPS. The first year of this study was devoted to establishing the vineyards and preparing spreadsheets to analyze costs associated with organic and conventional winegrape production on the Central Coast. These vineyards are in warm region IE-region IV climatic zones. Grow-tubes were employed at each site. Each vineyard operation was logged, recorded, and costs assigned for both sites. Vines were allowed to reach the fruiting wire and training has begun. Powdery mildew pressure is moderate in these locations, and none was noted on the plantings. Conventional sulfur dusting was employed with both locations for establishment years. Both vineyards were also planted to winter cover crops and mowed. Discing was not employed beyond planting. Measurements were not made concerning vine growth, but visual assessment did not detect differences, which was expected. The second year of this study will continue to focus on economics associated with this study. The major problem to be solved is water treatment. Well water used as irrigation source is high in carbonates, a condition traditionally handled with sulfuric acid addition. Sulfuric acid is not allowed in organic production, so alternative sources for water treatment are being explored. Dusting sulfur, the backbone of organic powdery mildew protection, is also being scrutinized more closely by regulatory agencies. Alternative materials approved for organic production will also be studied this year.