Terrace Edge Vineyard and Olive Grove
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A little creature that made me wonder if going organic was worth it.

Words by Peter Chapman

Organics has definitely stretched me, in many ways and there’s one little creature which seriously had me wondering if it was all worth it – a creature with a taste for the finer things.

When you visit our vineyard, you’ll see that there’s a long row of cherry trees lining the driveway. They look beautiful and Bruce’s (Chapman Senior) eyes light up when he sees the fruit that is to come. He believes a cherry in the height of summer is a fruit that God especially gifted the world and I can’t help but agree!

For me, I love them too, but not for the reasons you may think. I love them the way an army commander loves a successful booby trap. I love them because they are the final line of protection for our grapes.
Having just emerged from the perils of spring frosts, in the next few weeks our wee grape buds now face, perhaps a more tragic end - eaten by grass grub beetles. I mean what would you rather, being frozen to death or eaten alive?

Beetles munching on vine shoots


Native to New Zealand, grass grub are found everywhere – in fact I would guarantee if you went outside and dug a hole, you’d find these white, alien, worm like creatures somewhere in your lawn. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with these wee grubs. However, when they grow from grubs to beetles, they find themselves rather partial to delicate, sweet, iddy-biddy grape shoots.
Grass grub beetles always fly at a certain time of the year – on still windless nights in November when the moon is out (wee romantics aren’t they!). They lie in the soil and then, how, I do not know, decide to all rise from the ground and fly at the same time. Rather like a budget sci-fi movie - theses swarms of beetles head towards our tender shoots, demolishing one row then moving onto the next. They are an organic viticulturists nemesis as there’s no easy way to get rid of them. The only way we knew how to deal with them was driving the tractor up and down the rows through the night spraying an organic pyrethrum made from chrysanthemum flowers that the wee blighters would eat and then die – however this organic spray would only last for the night hours and then break down in sunlight – so the very next night I would be spraying again.

This meant for a few, very trying weeks of 9pm – 5am night shifts, continuing on work during the day too. We knew they were attracted to light so we tried flood lights to attract them to pools of water to drown them, lights behind the perspex, hoping that they’d fly towards the light at great speed then knock themselves out. All of these worked but not on a large enough scale to deal with the plague like proportions.

It was only when we saw that the handful of cherry trees on the property were taking a hammering, that we realized these wee grubs rated cherries higher than grapes (guess they don’t drink wine). So it was a very easy decision to buy 120 cherry trees as an alternative delicacy.

So while it’s a little sad seeing any tree attacked by these blighters – I’m still more than happy to offer these cherries as sacrificial lambs. Plus I enjoy a lot more sleep!