Composting pomace for use back in vineyards

Grape pomace has become a crucial part of winemaking as more winemakers

and viticulturalists in South Africa come to understand and realise the benefits

that composted grape pomace has for their own vineyards.

In a personal interview with Professor Barbara Wechmar, a retired Microbiologist,

(January, 2010), it was confirmed that corrective composting of grape pomace

results in healthy humus-rich compost, which may be used back in the vineyard.

Wechmar is co-founder of Bioearth, a company specialising in the manufacture

and supply of inoculants for composting and plant food extract. Wechmar’s

primary focus is that of consultant and wine industry clients include Klein

Constantia, Tokara, Thelema and Backsberg.

Composting, as propagated by Wechmar focuses on the enzymatic digestion or

breakdown of organic material through the inclusion of a large and diverse

number of micro-organisms added as inoculants. Natural additives such as clay,

rockdust, ground seaweed kelp, zeolite and organic feedstock’s assist in the

complete breakdown of organic matter.

Stiaan Cloete, viticulturalist at Klein Constantia, confirmed in a personal interview

(February, 2010) that Wechmar’s composting principals and regime had been

introduced at Klein Constantia. Cloete regards corrective composting to be part

of alternative, pro-active farming, in-tune with nature and less reliant on

agrochemicals. According to Cloete, positive changes noted in the past three

years include improved soil structure, reduced erosion and increased water

retention. Also noted was the prolonged ripening of grapes, optimal ripeness of

berries and balanced vineyards with unassisted growing cycles. The biodiversity

of insects and plant life had also quadrupled and mealy bug counts were low,

which according to Cloete, was due to the presence of natural predators.

Next week: constructing a windrow for composting

Source: Waste Management in the South African Wine Industry – Catherine Dillon, 2011

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