NIAB has established a new vineyard as part of its extensive range of horticultural crop trials services.

The trials vineyard, at NIAB’s East Malling site in Kent, consists of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 24 rows (60 vines per row), and is available for bespoke trials, technical innovation, independent evaluation and commercial demonstrations. The client base includes companies seeking to develop new products and services for the horticultural industry, including agrochemical manufacturers evaluating new crop protection chemistry for subsequent sale into the viticulture sector.

Adrian Harris, NIAB’s horticultural trials co-ordinator at East Malling, says, “Our new trials vineyard will be a valuable industry resource. With no grapes being harvested for sale or for juice, it is thought to be the only vineyard of its kind in the UK. It offers the opportunity to undertake trials, which require crop destruction, where new and emerging material is being assessed; we have already assessed a root treatment during the vineyard’s establishment phase.”

The new trials vineyard complements NIAB’s expanding viticulture research platform, consisting of a planting of the red grape variety Divico, a dedicated R&D vineyard to refine growing systems to the UK climate and soils and the Wine Innovation Centre – a winery and oenology facility. The new Centre is part-funded by the East Malling Viticulture R&D Consortium,  which includes four major wine producers – Chapel Down, Gusbourne, MDCV and Nyetimber – along with Netafim UK Ltd and a number of associate members including Yara UK Ltd, HL Hutchinsons, Hampton Steel Ltd and OvinAlp.

Scott Raffle, NIAB’s horticulture knowledge exchange manager, highlights the expanding viticulture activities at the Kent site. “The UK viticulture industry has rapidly expanded in recent years and NIAB is becoming increasingly engaged with vineyard growers and wine producers with the intention of applying the skills we have developed in other horticulture sectors to the viticulture industry. Our aim is to help to improve grape yields and juice quality, whilst using resources responsibly and sustainably in ways that can be implemented in the UK’s cool-climate commercial vineyards. Our new trials vineyard will allow us to work with agrochemical and technological companies to further support production and crop protection processes.”