VineFacts turns 600
18 December 2018
This week’s VineFacts is the 600th edition of the weekly viticulture publication, which started in January 1997 and is now in its 23rd season.
VineFacts, produced by scientists at Plant & Food Research and published by New Zealand Winegrowers, provides information on weather and potential disease pressure to help growers make decisions for vineyard management to optimise their crop.
In the mid-1990s, a Technology for Business Growth project was set up in Marlborough that looked at integrated disease management of vines. It looked to compare different spray regimes for botrytis, powdery mildew and downy mildew. One of the main outcomes was a weekly disease monitoring of blocks and the dissemination of advice on sprays through a publication called Smartfax.
This fax-based service was sent out to a small group of local Marlborough viticulturists and winemakers. Over the years the number of recipients grew and today all New Zealand Winegrowers members have access to it. The name has also changed; from Smartfax to Vinefax to VineFacts. It also changed from being sent out by fax, to being sent out by email and now it is web-based.
Since the 2014-15 season VineFacts has been a national publication covering Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, North Canterbury and Central Otago. Its content has also expanded to include weather summaries from different weather stations around these districts, vine phenology, yield comparisons from monitored blocks, information of potential botrytis and powdery mildew infection periods as well as pertinent articles of interest.
Over the years, this publication has been financially sustained through subscriptions, the Marlborough Research Centre Trust and the Sustainable Farming Fund. For the period 1997 to 2014 VineFacts was under the ownership of the Marlborough Research Centre Trust (MRC). With the expansion of VineFacts to a national publication in 2014 the MRC Trust gifted ownership of VineFacts to New Zealand Winegrowers. NZW now funds VineFacts to be freely available to all members. VineFacts is also supported with substantial in-kind funding from Plant & Food Research and collaborating wine companies.
Dr Rengasamy Balasubramaniam, known to the industry as Bala, was responsible for getting VineFacts off the ground in the 1990s. Rob Agnew, who now leads the project, has been part of the VineFacts team since its inception, joined by Victoria Raw in 2006.