Buckwheat the perfect vineyard companion

Last updated 14:59 18/12/2013
Anna Flowerday
EMMA ALLEN/Fairfax NZ

FLOWER POWER: Te Whare Ra co-owner Anna Flowerday among the buckwheat growing between the vines at their vineyard, near Renwick.

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At Te Whare Ra Estate in Renwick, near Blenheim, owners Jason and Anna Flowerday have found an innovative way to use the space between their vine rows - they've planted buckwheat.

Although a strange sight to visitors driving past the rows on the way to the cellar door, growing buckwheat on alternate vine rows had a range of benefits and was a natural way to glean optimum conditions for grapegrowing, Mrs Flowerday said.

The vine rows had about 3 metres of space between them, about 10 hectares of land.

"For us, it's a big area between the vine rows," Mrs Flowerday said.

"So it's about creating something effective for the best use of the land."

Among other species, buckwheat attracted small native wasps by the name of Dolichogenidea tasmanica, which helped get rid of the leaf roller caterpillar pest.

The technique, adopted from what began as a research project nearby at Seresin Estate, allowed them to avoid using chemicals on the vines, Mrs Flowerday said.

"It's about looking for a natural solution to a problem."

Other plant species did a similar job to the flowering buckwheat. However, buckwheat had increased the abundance and longevity of the wasps, it had a short sowing to flowering time, could be managed to produce flowers over the entire grape-growing season, was relatively cheap, and could be killed by frost, which prevented it from becoming a weed.

Buckwheat also attracted a number of other beneficial species including hover flies, lacewings, and ladybirds.

Mr Flowerday said biodiversity and working with the environment naturally was key to maintaining a good vineyard.

The grapes seen on the vines above the ground was only a very small part of the overall environmental processes that were taking place each day, Mr Flowerday said.

"We spend a lot of time worrying about what's going on underneath [the vines]."

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- The Marlborough Express

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