POINTS TO PONDER
1. Pests and Diseases
Winter is a time to look over your vines for mealybug, mites, snails, vine scale which usually over winter under the vine bark with symptoms of phomopsis, eutypa evident on the canes and spurs.
Initially identify the pest species that is present before trying to applying any control methods.
The need to establish the economic threshold for your vineyard for any of these pests will assist in how you manage them.
For some of these pests there are natural enemies within the vineyard but their effectiveness can vary.
The chemicals used to control mealybug, scale and mites and the like are pretty comprehensive so populations need to be over your economic threshold level before your apply any controls.
The building of “insectariums” around the vineyard that have plants that encourage “good bug” populations will help and if you are in the right areas
planting a number of flowering plants high in pollen and nectar within the vineyard that flower in late winter / early spring may also be useful.
Snails are best controlled in late winter – in moist conditions as they crawl up the vines and chew the new buds and shoots. Repeat applications maybe necessary.
At or around budburst control of mites, LBAM and mealybug control is necessary.
What to spray? Consult the AWRI web site www.awri.com.au see “Agrochemical registered for use in Aust viticulture 13/14” for chemicals registered for use.
Your canes should have a light brown colour and be at least pencil thickness.
There is an interesting article quoted from below (see pruning) that discusses grapevine cane health.
Often we see black mould on the vines as we prune. This is usually a type of mould resulting from old / mummified bunches. The black mould results as the bunch breaks down. Is it harmful or does it cause a problem for later as the grapes mature? It is a likely that the moulds that result from this break down of the bunch are a source of future bunch rot infection. The bunch rots over winter on the vine and if conditions are right early in the season an initial bunch rot infection could occur.
I cut the old bunches off as a matter of course dropping them to the ground – so they have a little further to go to get back up into the vine around flowering or after the grapes start to mature.
Ideally I would remove all the cuttings from the vineyard but with pre pruning and mulching of canes when we use modern pruning aides makes this task particularly difficult – maybe we need something that breaks down the prunings quicker.
It does look like it will be an early start to the season – my fruit trees need their first spray (some 2 weeks earlier than last year) – so be prepared.
Have the early fungicides on hand from mid August as the best way to control most of the pests and diseases that we see in vineyards are with early applications of protectant fungicides like wettable sulphur and various preparations of copper occurring from budburst.
There is also a need to plan herbicide applications in the lead-up to budburst.
Have you noticed the increase in rabbits this winter? Young bunnies digging around the farm and vineyard?. Let’s hope the wet weather will slow these little buggers down. As a side thought they may compete with the ample population of hares we have and give the kids some weekend entertainment with their stinky, vicious, biting ferrets.
2. Foliage Management
Always an issue for me is the foliage wires. I have tried a range of things with the wires and usually end up dropping them after pruning and sweeping undervine.
I am wondering this year about whether there really is a need to sweep the area undervine. Do the grapevine cuttings and mummified bunches really cause any issues? Sure they are a store for eutypa, boring insects, some moulds, and rots but is this significant?
Pre-pruning and mulching of the canes helps break down this wood reducing problems.
So I’m all for doing as little as possible – so one less task this year.
3. Soil Management
I attended a soil workshop in the Grampians the other day and was impressed with reference to the “Northern Rivers Soil Health Card”.
I went home and googled it and now have a new reference point to assess my vineyard soils – worth a look if you have any questions about your soil health.
Or try www.tuckombillandcare.org.au
Our cover crops are an essential part of our vineyards whether they are planted annually or are permanent swards.
Mulching canes / pruning residues late in autumn can cause some pests like LBAM to move into the canopy.
I like to think I can roll my cover crop – I plant annual cereals specifically for this process to add organic matter directly to my soil in a cheap and effective way – my issue is the local kangaroo population that like to camp out in spring applying manure in place of the organic straw bulk in the vineyard row.
I’m hoping this year that sufficient grass will be found off property for the kangaroos this year and I will be able to use my roller again.
At the soil workshop I attended recently one of the speakers described herbicides as an evil process – I think he called me an environmental vandal ( or I bet he would have like to) because I do use residual herbicides undervine in my vineyards.
Timing of herbicide applications are critical for optimal effectiveness of herbicides (note the term optimal and not the word maximum).
I like to see some weed growth undervine over winter. This tells me that the undervine area is not a desert and that the herbicide use is working as “best practice”
A late winter / early spring knockdown herbicide is used to bare the undervine area followed – once this area is bare of weeds – by a residual herbicide. When applied correctly that is the work load for undervine in most vineyards.
Some people are looking to drop the residual herbicide from their weed control programme and are using glyphosate or similar type products several times over the year.
Glyphosate tends to have a residual effect of 7 to 8 weeks hence and application in early Sept would see a 2nd application around November. Depending on climatic conditions a 3rd application could be required in January
To optimise the organic matter that gets left for the sward it is wise to mulch the rows from mid August. This allows vegetation to regrow prior to a later spring cut.
I like to think about managing the mid row areas along the lines of my neighbour, a broad acre farmer, who will put the sheep into his hay crop in August for a light graze to “stool” the cereal hay crop out – increasing the bulk of the plants.
Broadacre farmer techniques for producing bulk from their pastures needs greater attention from us in the vineyards and orchards.
If you are to undervine mulch – now is the time to get into it as it will lock in the soil moisture from winter and conserve it best.
I was in a vineyard recently with some large clumps of weed under vine in small areas. How to get them out was the questioned asked. Being a simple man and basically lazy I thought the use of the wiper snipper a last resort – too hard, too heavy and too noisy but can be effective.
The hand hoe is really not an option – well too hard!
Sheep will chew down some of these bulky plants – but I have found them only partially useful in the process.
There are different /new machines that are tractor mounted that can slash and / or dig the soil that will remove these bulk problems and are very effective.
The key to control to these bulky plants is to get them down to a size where herbicides can penetrate the weeds to kill them. Herbicides do require the ability to penetrate the foliage so cutting down the bulk and using adjuncts (oils etc) get into the roots of these plants. Note the efforts may require more than one focused effort.
The dry weather has seen more trellis broken that would normally be expected. The advances in machine harvesting have seen more effective harvesting – quicker and cleaner – but little has been done to reduce damage to trellis structures.
The drought that started in 1997 and still is going on in my view (with 1 or 2 hiccups) has caused soils to dry out creating tight soils that had very little “give”,
combined with this the suppliers of trellis posts tended to rush posts thro their systems using less than the “best” options.
It is very easy to be distracted whilst I write this as I go off on tangents so to get myself back on track …….
Now is the time to get onto your trellis repairs. This is not just fixing broken posts but tightening up cordon wires that may have loosened off over the last 12 months. This is best done before you tie down
5. Vineyard Development
I am in the process of preparing a new vineyard area and have ripped the rows, added a range of soil amendments (lime, gypsum, superphosate and organic matter) over the winter.
We will be remarking the block out in the next few days and applying a residual herbicide to prevent weed growth.
We will also be out looking for some vine guards to protect the vines after planting. Hares took about 500 vines from our last planting back in 2008 and my “war” on hares began.
There is a range of grow guards out there – all are effective against animal intrusions and protect against herbicide damage. Some require the trellis to be in place others not so much.
The irrigation installation is less well thought through at the moment. We have a few large rocks to move before we install the main and as the water source is only 2 m below the water source we have to think about where we supply the water from and more importantly how we will supply it.
So if you are up to a bit of agricultural risk and are willing to say the market has bottomed and it can only be up from here – not a position the WFA holds at the moment – now is a great time to plant.
The great advantage of planning a vineyard now is you can take your time and get the best possible planting material possible. Always look to use high health planting material from vine improvement sources.
If you really must risk your future profitability and use your own material make sure you have it checked for viruses and trunk diseases before you go ahead.
I was reading an article in the July 2013 Issue 594 of the Grapegrower & Winemaker and was taken by Mike Trought’s article “Balanced pruning key to yield” in which he looks at using key winter monitoring data to estimate vine balance.
He proposes the following as a guide to establishing “a balance between ….yields and shoot growth..” whilst accepting that site , variety, vineyard history and experience are necessary conditions to consider.
– “where the shoot count divided by the number of nodes retained is less than 90%, there will be blind buds and too many nodes were retained after pruning”
– “In contract, if the number is more than 110%, too few nodes were left.
– If the value is between 90% and 110% the vines are balanced.
He notes that with spur pruning “where small spurs will probably have few bunches”
Pay attention to your small vines and replants – makes sure you prune them back to 2 or 3 buds to ensure they get to the wire this year.
So you will be 75% thro pruning and will have started tying on by the beginning of August. This year pruning has been quicker than the last few years. My theory is that the dry year has reduced growth and made the task easier. Also, well in my case, the vines are better setup and easier to prune because I am pruning vines I have pruned for the last few years and they are “perfectly” set up.
Seriously last year I took 43 hours per hectare to prune where this year I’m back to 31 hours for the same area – either I’m a champion or its getting easier because the vines are better set up.
7. Environmental Best Practice
A big part of the future for vineyards are environmental concerns.
Back in 1997 the DPI – Vic produced “Regional Environmental Best Practice for Viticulture Pyrenees & Grampians” which is based on a USA (Californian – Lodi) system.
I suppose we spend a lot of time re-inventing the future and I was made to re think this best practice CD the other day when someone suggested an organised best practice scheme was needed for viticulture.
The programme has a score sheet to establish a starting point and 12 components that cover all areas of vineyard practice.
Whilst this programme isn’t prescriptive it is a good guide to follow as you think through how you work your vineyard and where you can improve your practices.
All the schemes available are useful – its about getting you to think about your work processes and to be willing to change “sacred” practice if it is found wanting.
An ongoing task for August. You should be seeing the end of the task now with about 75% completed.
Part of the process is to tie On – tie the vines down to the cordon. A quick process but important one
Get into replacing broken posts.
Fix any broken wires.
Run out any new wires as required for foliage or irrigation.
Undervine herbicides are applied in mid to late August
If possible mulch or remove prunings
Later in the month mulch the mid row areas. This will mulch the prunings allowing a quicker break down of the materials.
Now is the time to have the buds looked for potential yield.
For some the need to sweep under the vine rows to clear away prunings. As a block is pruned it can be swept
Replants / planting
Any planting can occur from June thro November. Using a grow guard will help to protect the new vine from animals and other damage.
An appropriate time to apply a straw or other mulch undervine.
Thought for the Month
Last week I saw an email from the GWRDC asking for AVIA and VAMVVIA approval to publish information about the clones and varieties they hold in their separate collections.
This request has been made to approx. 19 contributors to the Review of Grapevine Germplasm Collections in Australia and updates the 2002 and 2006 National Register of Grapevines and Clones with recent importation data including information from several private importers.
This information formed part of a much larger confidential report to the GWRDC Board that was completed in late February 2013 that looked at the current status of existing grapevine collections and best practice management of genetic resources.
The report recommended a business model to maintain and financially sustain the collections into the future.
Linked to this is the Australian Quality Standards Scheme that the Vine Industry Nursery, Australian Vine Improvement Association and others are presently finalising with Standards Australia.
In all there are 3 projects listed in the 2011 – 12 GWRDC annual report that the Australian Wine Industry has contributed approximately $100,000 to complete.
The GWRDC is to produce a heavily edited report to discuss with the Winemakers Federation and the Wine Grape Growers at some point in the future.
Why would the GWRDC use industry money to produce reports that are not released to the industry people who pay for them?
If only a few individuals can read the reports and are then required to sign confidentiality statements that stop them from talking about what is in the report as it affects the industry sectors they are covering what is their purpose?
If heavily edited reports are then produced for the industry peak bodies to comment on one has to wonder about the usefulness of the industry investment.
How many other reports are being produced by the GWRDC and then hidden away from open and transparent industry scrutiny?
We are left to ponder the usefulness of a report that is cloaked in a veil of secrecy.
We are also left with a possible feeling of a trust breach between the GWRDC and the peak industry bodies.
Why is this important?
A key purpose in getting these reports together, initially coordinated by Peter Hayes, was to get a comprehensive understanding of the status of the Australian germplasm, vine improvement and nursery industries and to improve industry practices in producing grapevines for use within our dynamic industries.
Further it was intended that a business case would be an outcome that would establish a new structure for the production of grapevines of high and / or known health status and lead eventually to a Clean Plant Network similar in purpose to that of most of our international competitors.
Maintaining and improving the quality of grapevines in the wine industry is a critical step to improving the quality of the grapes we use in our vineyards.
It is a key method for improving our individual vineyard and winery profitability.
A well managed national approach to grapevine collections is essential if our industry is to remain relevant and prepared for the future.
As our climate changes we will see new pests and diseases come into our vineyards. We will also experience significant outbreaks of existing pests and diseases.
Further we require a well managed and centrally managed grapevine resource to provide the foundation for the future of our viticultural industries in the event of a pest or disease outbreak.
The experience of the South African viticultural industry with the spread of leaf roll by mealybug, California and Pierces disease, the E.U and flavescence doree are telling us that a safe source of high health grapevine material is critical for the future of our viticultural industries.
The GWRDC needs to drop its veil of secrecy and be transparent with the industry that funds its activities and fund a national grapevine collection as outlined in the February 2013 Board report.
To your ongoing passion for viticulture.
To your ongoing pursuit and passion about viticulture and your vineyard.
KYM LUDVIGSEN M.AppSci (Agric), Grad. Dip. Wine
P.O. Box 545, Ararat. 3377. Victoria
03 5352 2798
0427 971 835
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I operate a viticulture consultancy based on 36 years experience in the Wine Industry. I have Vineyard Management experience in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and in New Zealand and Tasmania.
Please feel free to contact me if you require a site visit or would like to take advantage of an ongoing consultancy arrangement.
As a guide his fees comprise…
- Ongoing consultancy —$150 per hour plus GST, travel ($50 per hour), accommodation and incidentals at cost.
- A one off visit — $175 per hour plus GST, travel, incidentals and accommodation at cost.
Whilst a detailed document setting out specific fees for selected tasks is available I am available to tailor a programme to suit your specific requirements.
The information contained in this newsletter is a guide only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, nor does itconstitute advice. Application of any of the information provided requires assessment for suitability to your vineyard. Comprehensive information can be provided by Ludvigsen Viticultural Services on request.