Why did you decide to switch part of your vineyards to organic production? The Bologne distillery has been committed to an eco-responsible process for many years.
In fact, since 2010, the plant has been producing renewable energy by recovering all its manufacturing waste, as part of an eco-green cycle. In 2017, the distillery began the process of converting to organic farming. The aim: to combine the best environmental practices, a high degree of biodiversity and the preservation of natural resources.
Why did you decide to switch part of the plots to organic farming?
The Bologna distillery has been involved in an eco-responsible process for many years. Indeed, since 2010, the factory has been producing renewable energy by recovering all its manufacturing waste, thus becoming part of an eco-green cycle. In 2017, the distillery began the process of conversion to organic farming. The objective: to combine the best environmental practices, a high degree of biodiversity and the preservation of natural resources.
What were the obstacles encountered?
In order to obtain organic certification, we were required to work with a different variety of cane than our own. This was to ensure, among other things, that the samples sent and the checks carried out came only from the selected plots. The cane variety chosen is known as yellow cane by some, the official name of this cane being B80689. We had to get used to this new variety of cane. As our estate was already used to harvesting in parcels, we had a head start in organising the cutting of the parcels in conversion.
Did the yields drop significantly?
The first year, yields were mixed, but since then it’s quite the opposite, the yield is higher than the conventional plots. We have about 15 tonnes more per hectare than the conventional ones. In our R&D, we have also experimented with our own farming methods, such as the use of service plants and also the selection of beneficial micro-organisms, in order to promote soil life and then the decomposition of organic matter. The effects were not immediately visible, but were more conclusive in the second and third years. Added to this, the position of the plots benefiting from a particularly advantageous climate, as well as the attention paid to these plots which will have an average of five manual maintenance passes per year, compared to one or two passes on conventional plots,
How many hectares have switched to organic?
On the first organic harvest in 2020, the Grande Savane plot of 7 hectares was the only one. Since then, other plots on the estate have been converted.
What were the main difficulties you encountered?
The challenge was to ensure the good growth of our crops, by managing the main enemies as well as possible, weeds in the inter-rows and certain pests such as, for example, the Borer (Diatraea saccharalis), a small caterpillar that opens galleries in the sugarcane, thus reducing its final production. In this case, we use biological control techniques in particular, with the aim of attracting what we call the natural enemies of this pest, in order to have satisfactory control without the use of phytosanitary products in particular.
What are the solutions?
Investments have been made for periodic maintenance by purchasing suitable machinery; €90,000 for a micro tractor, a rotary cultivator, a rotovator and a rotovator. In addition, the maintenance of the plots and the manual work carried out by our teams is more important. The organic fertilisers used are also more expensive.
To obtain the organic label, it was a real team effort, internally but not only, because we called on the Centre Technique de la Canne et du Sucre (Technical Centre for Cane and Sugar), and even on the Lycée Agricole de Guadeloupe (Agricultural High School), for research into solutions adapted to Guadeloupe, for cane as well as for other types of crops.
How was the public received?
The reception from the public has been very positive. Having made the first bottle accessible in terms of price has helped to de-sacralise the organic farming approach and make it a matter for everyone. Until then, organic agricultural rums from other regions were only sold in wine shops and at more than 60€ a bottle. On the first release, the stock was sold out in 1 month in Guadeloupe, and the success was in the same dynamic in France. The release of the Grande Savane cuvée, which won a medal at the Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, has pleased the more discerning palates.
In the future, will there be other organic rums at Bologna?
Indeed, we will soon release a new organic cuvée.