As growers we are stewards of the land and are always working to improve farming techniques to become more and more environmentally friendly. One of the ways we are accomplishing this is by reducing the herbicide and pesticide use in the vineyard, but what do we replace it with? While doing research on this topic John Bacigalupi came across some information on a man named Ernie Wilmink. Ernie is the founder of AgriOzein, a company based in Lindsay, NE. The AgriOzein produces ozone generators designed to provide disease and pest control in vineyards. Currently Ernie is working mainly with farmers in the Midwest. Now growing interest has taken AgriOzein overseas. Recently this technology has just been approved by the FDA, EPA and the USDA, making ozonated water the smart and responsible choice for reducing chemical use in the vineyard. So how does the new technology work?
Ozone is o3, where the third oxygen molecule is forcible bound to the other two. In Ernie’s machine, the o3 molecule is introduced into water which is then applied onto the vine with a sprayer. The o3 lasts in this form on the vine for only a few minutes, as it is extremely unstable. Once the third oxygen molecule breaks off it releases an intense amount of energy which in turn shatters the cell wall of any fungicide or pests that are present. After use the ozone decomposes rapidly leaving no harmful residue. Ozone appears to offer growers more benefits than just reduced chemical use. Vines are healthier overall and appear to be in better balance and produce grapes of higher quality.
In the Russian River Valley, John Bacigalupi is the first California grower to purchase one of Wilmink’s ozone generators. He’s hoping ozone will reduce chemical costs and usage while keeping our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes free of Botrytis, powdery mildew and other vineyard ailments common in cooler growing regions. We have done several trial runs in the vineyard with the AgriOzein and will fully implement it into our vineyard program beginning in 2015. We look forward to sharing our discoveries using this new technology with you.
“It’s not just disease control, it’s restoring the ecosystem, getting healthier vines, better quality grapes and therefore at the end, unbelievable quality wine, because that’s what we all want to do.”- Ernie Wilmink, AgriOzein