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Fendt is the toast of new English vineyard

A new vineyard is being created on the 250ha Rathfinny Estate, East Sussex, with the help of a pair of Fendt specialist narrow tractors, purpose-selected for the job by vineyard manager, Cameron Roucher.

Fendt 211V Vario tractor

Fendt 211V Vario tractor with mist blower sprayer applying a foliar feed to the first vines established at the Rathfinny Estate, Alfriston, East Sussex. The mustard crop growing between the rows acts both as a windbreak and a green mulch.

Supplied and supported by local dealer, N P Seymour, the 70hp Fendt 207F Vario and 110hp Fendt 211V Vario tractors are being used for tasks including mowing, cultivations, spraying and transport, working along rows of vines which, by 2020, are expected to be part of the largest vineyard in England, yielding more than 1,000 tonnes of grapes a year.

Establishment of the vineyard commenced in spring 2012 when 57,000 high-grafted vines were planted on 20ha of free-draining clay loam-over-chalk soils on the slopes of the Cuckmere valley, close to the village of Alfriston within the South Downs National Park.

Cameron explained that the plan is to plant annually a similar area of vines for the next seven years to give a total vineyard size of around 150ha, producing a variety of grapes that will be pressed and bottled in Rathfinny’s own winery, currently under construction. Estimated production target when the vineyard is fully established is one million bottles a year of the finest sparkling white and rosé wines, all to be sold under the Rathfinny label.

Appointed vineyard manager in April 2011, Cameron studied viticulture and winemaking at the Eastern Institute of Technology at Taradale, New Zealand, before developing his practical vine-growing skills on high-profile estates in New Zealand and Australia.

These skills proved invaluable during the planning and planting of Rathfinny’s first batch of vines. The combination of careful cultivations, judicious watering and effective protection against the wind promoted excellent establishment which, in time, is expected to produce consistently top grade fruit.

Cameron Roucher

Rathfinny Estate’s vineyard manager, Cameron Roucher, with the Fendt 207F Vario and Fendt 211V Vario tractors which are helping tend a major new vineyard being established in the South Downs National Park.

As and when necessary, supplementary watering of the young vines is carried out by a combination of Fendt tractor and 2,000 litre bowser, a partnership that helped establish in 2011 a shelterbelt of indigenous hedge plants and trees planted as an aid to managing the micro-climate along the slopes of the vineyard.

Another aid to achieving optimum vine establishment is the mustard seed sown by Cameron between the rows of young vines. “The mustard acts both as a windbreak and as a green mulch, retaining moisture and supressing weed growth,” he explained. “When necessary, we use one of the Fendts to trim the mustard growth and to loosen the soil, preventing capping which can lead to excessive rainwater run-off.”

One of the most important operations required during the establishment and maturing of the vines is spraying with foliar feeds and carefully-selected fungicides, jobs for which Fendt’s Vario continuously-variable transmission is ideally suited, says Cameron.

“I first used Fendt tractors when working on vineyards in Australia and New Zealand,” he explained. “The Vario transmission promotes highly accurate spray applications and is a great help also when hitching-up to implements. For my money, Fendt makes the best all-round tractors for precision vineyard work, combining first-class reliability, hydraulic flow rates and visibility in a tractor that is built to last while being intuitive to set up and drive.”

Cameron added that much of the equipment used today in British vineyards was developed originally in Germany, ensuring a good match with Fendt tractors due to their common heritage.

“When I arrived at Rathfinny, there was a lot of preparation work to do before we could even think about planting any vines,” he said. “Problem was, we had no tractors and no means of moving equipment and materials. Suffice to say, the first call I made was to local Fendt dealer, Nick Seymour, and within a short time a pair of Fendt tractors had been installed on the estate. The tractors are meeting everyone’s expectations, helping us remain on schedule to harvest our first, albeit small, crop of grapes in autumn 2013.”

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