Plant protection products available to vine growers are tried and tested, the result of years of manufacturer research and development, and also from years of experience of recommendation and observation in the field; specifically wine grapes under UK conditions. Bio-pesticides are gradually becoming more available and should also have this pedigree as they must jump the same hoops of the registration process; though experience of them in our cool climate is more limited.    

Bio-stimulants are a different matter and can be marketed without rigorous testing, though sourcing from a reputable supplier who has conducted trials in another wine growing region is a reassurance. They are permitted for sale as nutritional supplements outside the scope of the pesticide regulations (COPR) though they may have clear crop protection benefits. Regulation is changing, so that new EU ‘Fertilising Product’ regulations will give a stronger legal framework for use and are expected to be fully applied by 2021.

Up until then the varied claims of manufacturers may or may not be substantiated and products may not have been tested under UK conditions to reassure growers whether they actually conform to the definition of a bio-stimulant; that is ‘able to stimulate natural processes of plants to benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient use efficiency, crop quality and their tolerance to stress factors’….abiotic (the environment) and biotic (pest and disease). 

Therefore, when using bio-stimulants and bio-pesticides a degree of scepticism is required in understanding whether they actually benefit the crop. Field scale use can give some reassurance of efficacy but in truth only dedicated replicated UK trials can identify this. 

To this end Agrii annually tests new products at its Fruit iFarm at NIAB EMR and has also been sponsorship partners in the establishment of the trials vineyard at the Kent research station. Over the past three years we have conducted trials on products with the potential to benefit early year’s establishment of vines, with some interesting results. This coming season we will be carrying out trials as associate member of the NIAB EMR Vineyard Consortium investigating a new bio-pesticide, a new bio-stimulant and a new plant growth regulator. Independent manufacturer trials are also underway at the NIAB EMR vineyard for another bio-pesticide which is currently undergoing UK registration. Agrii has been actively involved in facilitating this and ongoing with applications for new product approvals in wine grapes also currently undergoing registration.