Luke Spalding’s regenerative experiments at Everflyht Vineyard
Luke Spalding is vineyard manager at the beautiful Everflyht Vineyard in East Sussex. Luke is an innovator, experimenter and self proclaimed data lover, who inspires us with his curiosity and openness to learning through mistakes – a truly regenerative mindset!
You may remember Luke from his excellent interview with fellow viticulturist Dan Rinke in our Regenerative Viticulture Series, or from our blog from a visit we made to Everflyht back in 2019.
We’ve caught up with Luke again for an update on his regenerative experiments, to talk observation, soil health, and following the regenerative path. The beautiful photos used in this interview are all from Luke’s instagram – follow him @the_country_gent to learn more.
Do you feel that there’s been a change in mindset required for shifting towards regenerative viticulture?
“For me the change in approach happened when I started to learn and immerse myself in the never ending subject of soil health and balance. It was not so much a shift in mindset, more a change in understanding of my own position. I know I will never know everything or have finished learning, I will never be in control or ‘right’, and not everything I do or practise will work. Once you come to terms with that, then you can begin regenerative methods of farming and viticulture.”
What are the main challenges you have faced practising these regenerative methods?
“I think for me it was where to start – with the spray program, with the vines, with the soil, inputs, or with the wider ecosystem. In the end I started with focusing on the soil, and then began to look outwards at the wider ecosystem.”
What are the main benefits of your practice so far?
“To be honest, it is too early to tell. Plus – I do not have enough data yet to be confident in saying openly what I think. But I do believe we are on the right path.”
This has been a tough year with high disease pressure for UK vineyards – how have you worked on managing disease pressure regeneratively?
“This year has been, I would say, the most challenging that I have had since I started growing grapes. For the last year or so I have been cutting back on conventional chemicals and copper use in the vineyard, but this year the pressure was simply too great. I am pleased however that 2021 was the second year in a row that we have not used any insecticides at Everflyht.”
Which regenerative experiments have worked well for you in the past year?
“I think in time the undervine green mulch that we have been experimenting with for the past two years will show some great benefits. I think this will be the case not just for vineyards in the UK, but also to support dry farming around the world.”
How important is observation for you in the vineyard?
“For me observation is one of the fundamentals. You just have to get out into the field, have a good look at what’s going on, and take measurements as you go.”
What are your tips and tricks for others trying to take a more regenerative approach?
“Do not follow or copy someone else’s path or route – you need to find your own way, and learn what works for you on the site you have. By all means talk and share ideas – but change them, and make adaptations for your own site and working style. I feel the results are better that way.“