14 August 2015
Winning a category award in the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards was a nice little pat on the back for viticulturist Steve Wheeler and his employer, Mission Estate Winery.
Steve manages 33ha of vines for Mission Estate, one of New Zealand’s oldest and most well-known wine producers.
Based near Napier and owned by Marist Holdings Ltd, the winery prides itself on “delivering excellent wine to consumers in a way that enables the natural environment, the businesses and the communities involved to thrive”.
“Mission Estate has being doing some great work in the sustainability field,” Steve says, “so entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) was an excellent way to showcase this work and to encourage others to do the same.”
Steve, who has an extensive background in soil science, was thrilled when Mission Estate was announced the 2015 East Coast winner of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award.
This award focuses on the excellent management of soil structures and the appropriate use of nutrients. Entrants must demonstrate a sound knowledge of nutrient budgeting and nutrient cycles and show a good understanding of how nutrients impact on both the surface and ground water.
“Along with the climate, soils are the starting point for growing good grapes, so soil management is crucial,” Steve says.
BFEA judges were impressed with Mission Estate’s careful matching of grape varieties to soil type. They also praised the use of an integrated nutrient tracking system that monitors soil nutrients on a block by block basis.
Steve says his computer programme analyses soil and plant tissue tests for specific areas and uses comprehensive data to track trends and optimise nutrient use.
He says the positive feedback from BFEA judges was “very rewarding”.
“The judges came with a range of expertise and it was great to have another set of eyes looking at the business. They provided us with a detailed report that highlighted all the good things we were doing and pointed out some areas we could work on in future.”
He says entering the awards was well worthwhile.
“It’s professionally done and it’s a great learning experience. The awards evening was fantastic and it was inspiring to hear about what others are doing to improve the sustainability of their businesses.”
Steve says he would certainly encourage other viticulturists, horticulturalists and farmers to enter the competition.
“It’s definitely worth giving it a go.”
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are open to all farming types. Entries for the 2016 East Coast BFEA close on 16 September 2015.