Winemakers are in part, “microbiologists”, they add good microbes to ferment their grapes, and manage the environment to reduce the impact of bad microbes, which can spoil their fermentation.
Vineyard managers are also in part “microbiologists”. By their different management options on the Vineyard, they can have significant affects on microbial populations, reducing or increasing the balance of good and bad bugs, by their choice of options. For example, adding compost or mulch to their soil, will increase microbial activity, conversely, adding chemical fertilisers and fungicides, will reduce microbial life, and may lead to an increase in bad bugs (pathogens).
EM (effective microorganisms) is a technology that will increase the balance of good microbes around the vineyard while also increase composting speed, improving soil fertility and so much more.
What is EM
EM contains three main families with many different individual species in each family. The three families are; photosynthetic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, and yeasts. One of the strengths of EM is that it is a diverse combination of microbes, and this gives it versatility in terms of a wide scope of applications that it can be used on.
As in most other farming situations, the applications in Vineyards are centered on improving your biggest asset in your soil. So the aim is get the biological activity of your soil working efficiently.
That means effective organic matter recycling, to build humus, the food for your soil and plants. By developing a productive understorey through the alleys between the vines and mulching the forage and prunings, this organic matter food source in conjunction with EM, can return the microbial life to your soil.
This will lead to better water use, efficient nutrient uptake, and healthy soils leading to healthy vines. EM can be applied through the irrigation system, or sprayed onto the soil, undestory and vines.
During disease pressure periods EM is targeted as a foliar application to crops, this has 2 main functions, firstly it creates better growing conditions and this leads to a stronger healthier plant. Secondly it provides competitive exclusion, which means that it out-competes pathogens for space, by inoculating the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.
How do we enhance the microbial activity of our biological systems?
Being aware of what may increase or decrease our populations is really important. And choosing options that either increase populations or options that minimize the loss of microbes is important.
Three simple techniques to increase microbes are:
- Add organic material, .these could be; mulch from mowing, mulched prunings, composted grape marc and manure
- Directly add microbes, such as in EM (effective microorganism) or compost teas
- Use organic fertiliser’s, such as fish based, seaweed based, or rock based fertiliser
Three simple techniques to minimise the negative impacts of chemical based fertilisers and fungicides:
- Re-populate the treated site with “good” microbes, after the chemical option has been used, e.g. EM input
- Use minimum rates and frequencies of fungicides and chemicals
- Do-not stress the vines or soil, maintain good moisture levels and consider a foliar fertilizer
How is EM being used around the vineyard and Olive plantings?
EM1 is expanded and activated at 5% to make EM-A, and then used in the following ways:
- Enhancing fertiliser efficiency
- Understorey management
- Compost making
- Vine health
- Waste water treatment