Biodiversity and Sustainability
We put sustainability at the heart of everything we do here on St Martin's Vineyard and we're delighted that this was recognised through a Highly Commended award at the 2022 Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Sustainability Awards (CSA).
The vineyard here on St Martin's is full of life at every level - beneath the vines there are a whole host of rare arable wildflowers which are enjoyed by bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies and butterflies. Each of our vine fields is surrounded by dense wind-breaks, (a feature common across the landscape of Scilly to protect delicate crops), which are filled with nesting birds including thrushes, blackbirds, dunnock, house sparrows and goldfinches. Alongside the cultivated vines on the site are wilder areas where nature can flourish undisturbed including an elm copse studded with bluebells and campions, as well as areas of fragrant honeysuckle and gorse which fills the air with its coconut scent in springtime. Areas such as this are home to small mammals including the Scilly shrew - an insectivorous species not found on the mainland but which is a great help in organic control of pests!
Fossil-fuel Free: In autumn 2022 we completed the switch to entirely fossil-fuel free management of the vineyard from mowing the grassland, cutting the 2km of hedging and all of those day-to-day jobs which require moving materials and equipment around the site. This required some initial investment in battery-powered machinery, as well as changing our management approach & priorities in order to allow this.
Renewables: In 2021 we installed a solar array and battery storage on the vineyard – our vineyard operation and two shepherds huts are approximately 75% powered by our own renewables through the summer season with remaining grid-power from a renewables-only tariff. Whilst we try to choose sunny days for more energy-intensive jobs such as brewing our micro-batch beers, nothing is wasted as the excess power goes into the grid to add more renewables to the energy mix used on the island.
Carbon Negative: Using the Farm Carbon Calculator, St Martin's Vineyard including the vineyard, winery, visitor area, shop and shepherds huts emitted approximately 1.5 tonnes of CO2 in 2022. However this is offset by onsite sequestration of 15 tonnes of CO2 through the way the site is managed ensuring that we are significantly carbon negative.
Zero-burn: We operate a zero-burn policy on the vineyard - many vineyards will take their woody arisings and light a bonfire to deal with the material as waste. We treat them instead as a resource rich in carbon and organic matter - all arisings from vines and hedges are chipped on our electric chipper, composted and returned to the land to sequester carbon.
Water Collection: We have installed a 33,000l gravity-fed water storage system which collects water from the roofs of the buildings. This is used for all of our irrigation requirements, to help preserve our precious groundwater supplies.
Bottle Re-use & Recycling: Glass bottles are one of the most significant and carbon-intensive resources required for our business. For us, bottles are a resource which we have to buy in each year; whereas for other island businesses they are waste which they must pay to dispose of. 100% of our beers and ciders are in recycled bottles; 90% of our wine and around 50% of our apple juice. We purchased a bottle washing machine with support from TEVI allowing us to effectively wash, sterilise and re-use these bottles. Waste glass is crushed for aggregate on Scilly, rather than re-cycled, making this reclaim and reuse especially valuable.
Regenerative Agriculture: Soil health is critical to our approach - since taking on the vineyard in 2020, we have removed artificial inputs from the management of the vineyard. This includes zero pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers.
Compost: We use our own compost along with seaweed mulches in the winter to encourage a healthy soil biome and operate zero-till to ensure constant cover by native wildflowers throughout the vineyard.
Fungicides: Conventional vineyard management - even under organic regimes - can involve 10-12 vineyard-wide spray operations a year to apply fungicides. Fungi such as mycorrhiza are essential to healthy soils and healthy vines - therefore we do not undertake any routine fungicide spraying, relying only on a manually applied contact-spray of the least harmful product available - potassium bicarbonate - to individual vines in the rare instances where required. This spray has no systemic action and unlike copper and sulphur typically used in organic-approved systems, does not harm insects or soil organisms operating only on contact with powdery mildew.
Grassland Management: We have recorded over 130 plant species on the vineyard to date. We practise rotational mowing using an electric mower with a high-cut, whilst leaving uncut areas year-round, to ensure constant pollinator resource supply through the summer. The absence of artificial fertilisers since 2020 has resulted in a significant increase in flower-rich nitrogen-fixing species including the scarce Hairy Bird’s Foot Trefoil.
Tree Planting: Since 2021 we have planted two new traditional orchards using a range of fruit trees including local varieties such as the endemic Scilly Pearl. These are set within grassland which we manage to benefit the native flora. In addition to fruit trees, we planted an area of land with native broadleaf trees to increase structural and species diversity and broaden the range of habitats present on the vineyard.
Habitat Boxes: In spring 2022, we installed 20x bat and bird boxes to encourage nesting birds and provide greater habitat resource for the common pipistrelle bats which are resident on the island. We have two existing bat roosts on the vineyard, one of which is a small maternity colony where mothers raise their pups, and you can often see them flitting between the hedgerows at dusk.
Coastal Meadow Restoration: We began work in winter 2022 to restore an area of wildflower-rich coastal grassland through cut-collect techniques to reduce nutrient status and promote floral diversity over rank grass species.
Biodiversity and Sustainability Guides
We have produced a selection of biodiversity and sustainability guides which are available in the vineyard shop - or electronically here on our website!
This includes a 56 page guide to the wildflowers on St Martin's; a guide to making your own country wines from foraged ingredients; easy instructions to make bird, bat and bee boxes; and even how to press your own apple juice!
Follow the link below to read more: