Vineyard management

By Terence Bradshaw

Apologies if pictures don’t come through in this message, attached photos may be found in the corresponding blog post:

Grapes are moving fast in Vermont vineyards, with most cultivars in the UVM vineyard at about 3” shoot growth. Shoot thinning now will give best results before the vines waste energy on growth that you won’t keep. We typically aim for 4-6 well-spaced shoots per foot of canopy, selecting for the most healthy/vigorous and those with appropriate orientation for our downward training system (high-wire cordon).

Figure 1 Before shoot thinning

Figure 2 After shoot thinning

This is a typical time to start a spray program to manage disease. First, a warning- do not spray anything in the heat we are expecting today and tomorrow May 28-29. Application of many materials just prior to and most anything during heat over 85°F can cause phytotoxicity to vines. So have a nice Memorial Day, than get back to work Tuesday.

The primary disease of concern at this point is phomopsis, as rachis infection at this point in the season is may cause significant fruit loss at harvest. Anthracnose may also be active at this point , given the warm/hot weather. Most growers would do best to cover early this week with a contact fungicide like mancozeb or captan.

Organic growers are in for a bit more work. The standard fungicides, copper and sulfur, have only fair efficacy against this disease at best, and in a couple of weeks when black rot becomes the next disease of concern, those materials will have even less efficacy against that disease. The first line of defense in an organic vineyard is a strict sanitation program. This includes removing all mummies still in the canopy (not dropping on the ground, but actually removing them from the vineyard) as well as any obviously diseased wood. Phomopsis and anthracnose both overwinter largely on infected wood in the canopy, and removing this wood during dormant pruning or now is essential to reducing disease pressure. Stubs left at the ends of spurs should now be removed since you can see where this year’s shoot growth will resume (at the developing shoot)- these stubs will die and may become infected with phomopsis this season (or were last season) .

Figure 3 Removing stubs at end of retained spurs.

It is worth noting that both copper and sulfur (including lime sulfur) can cause phytotoxicity on certain cultivars. Dr. Patty McManus summarized her research on copper and sulfur sensitivity in cold-hardy grapes in the 2/8/16 Northern Grapes newsletter, and I’ll summarize it to say that Brianna should receive no copper; and Frontenac (all types), LaCrescent, Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Marquette, and St. Croix should receive no more than 2-3 copper sprays per season. Save those for later when black rot and downy mildew become bigger concerns. Sulfur sensitivity was observed on several cultivars, and its use (including lime sulfur) is discouraged on Foch, Millot, Brianna, and Louise Swenson; with limited (2-3) applications suggested on LaCrescent and St. Croix.

So, if you have removed all diseased wood and are ready to cover your vineyard for protection against phomopsis and anthracnose, the best choices is likely lime sulfur applied at two quarts per acre in sufficient water (25-30 gallons should do it) to wet the canopy. Lime sulfur is hot stuff: caustic, corrosive, and noxious. Use appropriate personal protective equipment and spray in cooler weather to reduce phytotoxicity. Powdered sulfur may also be a good choice, I would suggest 3-5 pounds per acre at this stage.

Petal fall…strep application clarification

By Terence Bradshaw

It helps to read what you wrote after sending. This clarifies a question a grower had for me, now that I’ve re-read things. My post should have read “Fire blight remains a serious concern in any orchard that has open blossoms, apply streptomycin at 24 oz/acre plus 1 pint Regulaid (or other similar wetting agent)/100 gallons finished spray within 24 hours of a wetting event to any trees with open blossoms.”

I originally left the Regulaid out of that statement.


Petal fall

By Terence Bradshaw

Today’s alert will be brief. Fire blight remains a serious concern in any orchard that has open blossoms, apply streptomycin at 24 oz/acre plus 1 pint/100 gallons finished spray within 24 hours of a wetting event to any trees with open blossoms. Organic growers, Serenade and possibly Double Nickel are your best options. That said, some sites have never seen fire blight, so this may be less important in cooler regions like the northeast kingdom or inland Vermont, but this is as big a potential infection event as I’ve ever seen. But remember, no blossoms, no need to treat. Symptoms should be showing next week if infection occurred earlier this week.

That said, and given the heat, spray nothing else until it cools down Sunday or Monday. Many sprays that are applied at this time of year (Captan, sulfur, thinners, many emulsifiable liquids) can cause leaf and/or fruit burn if high temperatures come soon after application.

When you do get in for a petal fall spray after cooler (<85°F) weather resumes, cover up for scab, and include a kick-back material if appropriate and you weren’t covered for these latest infections. NEWA indicates that all ascospores that could cause primary infections are mature and will be released in the next significant rain event but I wouldn’t put 100% faith in that. The European RIMpro model which takes many more factors than NEWA’s scab model into account still estimated 14% immature ascospores, and many orchards had a good bit of inoculum going into 2016, so prepare to stay covered for at least another week or two.

Insects are flying, and as soon as you can get into your orchard with no bee activity get a broad-spectrum material on the whole orchard. Codling moth are flying in virtually every orchard assessed, but their larvae are not yet a concern until moths mate and eggs hatch in a few weeks. European apple sawfly and plum curculio, however, are in most orchards now.

Thinning. I really can’t make a blanket recommendation, nor are any of the other specialists in the region. If you had good bloom, even with some king blossoms missing, and you likely had good pollination, then apply a mild to moderate thinner as soon as it cools off. Only on light-blooming blocks should you avoid thinning altogether. Reassess in a week. For what it’s worth, I intend to cover the UVM orchard with carbaryl only on Monday, then reassess at the end of the week. I know I’ll need to work a bit harder on the Empire and Honeycrisp, less on the Macs. But that’s my orchard. Yours is likely different.

Have a good weekend and feel free to shoot questions my way if you have them.

Northern Grapes News. Vol 5, Issue 2, May 26, 2016

By Terence Bradshaw

Northern Grapes News. Vol 5, Issue 2, May 26, 2016

In this issue:

Interspecific Hybrid Red Wine Color.

NGP Team Profile: Amaya Atucha.

NGP Team Profile: Francis Ferrandino.

Simultaneous Chemical and Sensory Analysis of Frontenac and Marquette Wines.

Tasting Room Visitor Surveys: Experience with and Enjoyment of Cold-Hardy Wines.

Registration information: cider makers’ and growers’ meeting June 28

By Terence Bradshaw

Registration for the June 28, 2016 cider makers’ and apple growers’ educational meeting at Woodchuck Cidery in Middlebury, VT is now open. Topics will include: updates on apple production and cider apple economics projects (Terence Bradshaw and Florence Becot); cider marketing (Farrell Distributing Cider Education & Training Manager Jeff Baker); and evaluation of ciders for quality improvement and cultivar selection (Cornell Cooperative Extension Enologist Chris Gerling). There is a $10 fee to cover lunch. The meeting will be held from 10:00-3:30.

Feel free to forward to appropriate parties.

Tentative Agenda:

Cider Apple Production in Vermont:

Field Research and Cider Quality

The Woodchuck Cidery

1321 Exchange Street

Middlebury, VT 05753

June 28, 2016


10:00 Apple Cultivar Evaluations for Cider Making

Terence Bradshaw, UVM Tree Fruit & Viticulture Specialist

10:45 Growing Apples for the Cider Industry: Does the Math Add Up?

Florence Becot, UVM Center for Rural Studies

11:15 Roundtable Discussion:
Product, Price, and Promotion: Perspectives on Cider Marketing

Jeff Baker, Farrell Distributing Cider Education & Training Manager (moderator)

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Risk Management

Jake Jacobs, UVM Extension

1:15 Developing Evaluation Programs to Improve Cider Making

Chris Gerling, Cornell University-NYSAES Enology Extension Associate

2:00 Coordinated Evaluation of Ciders

Moderated by Chris Gerling

3:30 Closing Comments and Adjourn

Fire blight risk…again

By Terence Bradshaw

A glitch in the NEWA system while I was writing that last post was preventing the importing of forecast data into the model. Now that it’s fixed, the risk levels look worse that I originally presented. I see that my image links still aren’t coming through via email, but they are on the associated blog post. I won’t post every chart again, but suffice to say that every site in Vermont with open blossoms is at risk this week. Growers would be wise to check NEWA and, again, apply strep to blocks with open blossoms ASAP.

Fire Blight warning

By Terence Bradshaw

Despite my sheepish warning in my last post, it appears that we are in a high risk period for fire blight infection in Champlain Valley and other warmer orchard sites with open blossoms this week. The charts below were generated using a best guess date for the start of bloom and the “fire blight occurred in your neighborhood last year” setting in NEWA. High risk indicates a need for treatment if wetting occurred (and in most sites it did or will), extreme risk indicates that streptomycin application is required to prevent infection. Of course this assumes that you have a local population of the infective bacteria Erwinia amylovera in or near your orchard, and that you have open susceptible blossoms. Adjusting the model to “no fire blight in your neighborhood last year” drops all sites down one category (I.e., from “Extreme” to “High”, or “High” to “Caution”), so adjustment based on historical disease occurrence may be appropriate. Application of strep, especially to highly susceptible cultivars, is recommended at this time for site with high or especially extreme risk. Strep will protect blossoms for 24 hours before and after application, so an immediate spray will cover for yesterday’s and tomorrow’s wetting events. Organic growers may apply Serenade or Double Nickel to reduce fire blight infection, although neither is as effective as strep, which was removed from the approved list of organically-acceptable materials in 2014.

This is also a good time to consider Apogee application to reduce vegetative shoot growth, which could be excessive in this potentially low-crop year. Apogee has no effect on blossom blight, but is effective in reducing the severity of shoot blight symptoms. Dr. Nikki Rothwell recently presented a good summary of use of Apogee in orchards in Michigan which is appropriate for Vermont growers as well.

Important industry survey: Food Safety Modernization Act

By Terence Bradshaw

I don’t wish to burden anyone at this busy time of year with a survey unless it’s important. But this is important. The VT Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) is preparing to roll out implementation and compliance with the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which will affect every farm in Vermont. Program development for training and enforcement is on-going, and VAAFM still doesn’t know how many farms will need to comply with various components of the program.

The survey should take 10-15 minutes to complete, and will provide you with some information on your potential compliance requirements with FSMA while helping inform VAAFM to the extent of need for compliance among farms in the state.

Please contact Kristina Sweet at or (802) 522-7811 with comments or questions about this survey.

Vermont orchard management: petal fall edition

By Terence Bradshaw

Bloom status in Vermont orchards is all over the map. Of course, cooler high elevation and inland sites are generally going into full bloom now while Champlain and Connecticut Valley sites are at petal fall (PF). Honeycrisp (in the Champlain Valley anyway) are lagging behind most other cultivars worse than usual: at the UVM orchard, we just started to see some king blooms yesterday while neighboring Mac and Empire are at full bloom and starting to think about PF. So this information may be more timely for some than others, but we’ll all need to be thinking about some complicated orchard management items in the coming week.

Disease: rain today, more on Tuesday may trigger an apple scab infection period, keep covered. Many Addison County orchards had enough rain and wetness from last Thursday’s (May 19) rain to trigger what was probably the biggest infection of the season. Depending on models, what you input for green tip date, and your trust in the weather forecasting/measuring systems used by NEWA and other sites, we are at about 85-95% apple scab ascospore maturity (with a wide range of deviation). Keep covered against rains for the next 7-10 days anyway. Fire blight infection is still a possibility in orchards with a history of the disease and open blossoms (even those stragglers blossoms, which I’m seeing a lot of). I discussed this last week, but keep protection against fire blight (strep, Serenade only if organic and you have no other option) on within 24 hours of rain or other wetting events in blocks with high-risk cultivars and/or any history of the disease. I don’t think this fire blight season will be a big one for two reasons: one, most orchards will be in full petal fall by the time the risk gets too high, and two, we didn’t have much fire blight at all around last year so inoculum is relatively low. Still, if I had a block of Honeycrisp, Gala, or late-blooming cider varieties I would consider treating. In fact, I’m spraying the UVM farm tomorrow morning and will be including strep In the tank since we have had a history of FB in one block with Gala, Cortland, and Mutsu and adjacent to a block with tall spindle Honeycrisp that I wouldn’t want to lose to save a little extra effort.

Insects: pretty quiet, but the extended bloom and many orchards with no protection may add up to a lot of damage while we’re waiting for all petals to fall to get in with an insecticide. Eric Boire is setting some traps around the Champlain Valley this year and reporting back to me; to date, he’s been clean on codling moth (CM), European apple sawfly (EAS), oriental fruit moth, and oblique banded leafroller in the few orchards he’s been able to deploy traps and check them. We’ll be checking traps tomorrow so my data is a week old, but we have been catching EAS and red banded leafroller in our orchard, some of which of course includes an unsprayed block. If I were spraying tomorrow, I would add a Bt product into the tank to give some protection against lepidopteran larvae (remember, Bt only works against lep larvae, not flying adults) until we can get a full petal fall insecticide on. The warm temperatures of the last couple and next few days will drive plum curculio (PC) into orchards, so a full-orchard insecticide once all of the bees and flowers are gone will be warranted. Organic growers can start applying Surround any time now to get the base coat built up before PC start to oviposit. Remember that Surround and Bt have relatively little effect on codling moth, which is likely only starting its flight now and thus has no larvae in the orchards to worry about. I mention this because a targeted CM spray will likely be needed in orchards with a history of that pest in a few weeks, we’ll discuss that as it comes closer.

Thinning: The $64,000 question this week, and likely worth a lot more than that. The reports I’m getting are that not only are the blossom stages all over the place, but blossom quality has been extremely variable too. Many of us have seen freeze damage likely from that April 5 snap, haggard-looking blooms, missing king blossoms, and ragged spur leaves. I’ve heard one report of open flowers with what appears to be no pollen in them. Many trees were likely stressed by an overabundance of crop last year, those trees and many others may be short on critical nutrients, although you should be applying foliar zinc, boron, and nitrogen and nitrogen, potassium, and whatever else is called for to the soil to keep things in good shape. The good part is that we have had some great bee flying days, although early blooming sites and cultivars were a little cloudy during king bloom but I think weather on May 14 was conducive for good flight.

With all that being said, here’s my take on things. Fruit set is likely to be all over the place, and given that, I would avoid a petal fall thinner on all but the healthiest looking trees (bloom-wise) and even then might think twice. Most thinners are likely to be more active, relatively speaking, than usual this year. The spur and early shoot leaves developed under cool, cloudy weather and thus likely have thin cuticles. Upcoming warm and at least partly cloudy days will increase carbohydrate deficit in trees which enhances thinning activity. And the generally weak-looking buds are likely to produce less set fruit. NEWA has a carbohydrate thinning model calculator component that, in most years, may help growers guide thinning decisions. However, I and most regional Extension professionals am suggesting that it not be relied on to make your final thinning decisions this year given the poor state of bloom and tree condition.

I’m going to be careful on specific recommendations except to say that multiple applications of mild thinners may be best this year. Look at the orchard in the first few days after petal fall. If you have time, tag some clusters and measure fruitlet growth with a micrometer and track the growth of those fruitlets after thinner application; fruit that stop growing in diameter a few days after application will likely thin off. When fruit approach 5-6 mm in size, a mild thinner application such as carbaryl, Maxcel/Exilis, or Amid-Thin (any one of those applied alone) may be your best bet. Another look at 10-12 mm may suggest that another application is needed, but I would be hesitant to apply a big shot all at once now. The 2015 New England Tree Fruit Management Guide has a good synopsis of thing options in Chapter 11, but keep in mind that any options this year should be on the conservative side. That said, no action may lead to overset of fruit, so don’t be afraid to do something in blocks that look healthy and have reasonable fruit set.

Grape bud break

By Terence Bradshaw

Buds have been breaking in Vermont vineyards in the past week, which signifies the real start of the growing season. This brings up a few pest management considerations for your vineyards. Most cold-climate cultivars will not need disease protection until 5-8” of shoot growth, but any vineyards with heavy disease pressure last year may wish to begin as soon as shoots are 3” in length, especially if inoculum reduction through thorough removal of diseased wood and mummy berries and/or dormant application of lime sulfur was not performed. Since we all likely have a couple of weeks before we need to get out there, now is a good time to make sure that your equipment is ready to go. I still recommend Dr. Lorraine Berkett’s Initial IPM Strategy for Cold Climate Grapes as the best resource to boil the decisions down to a simple ‘prescription’, with the caveat that since it was written some new pest management materials have been released and inoculum may have increased in your vineyards which could lead to increased disease pressure. Growers should have an up-to-date copy of the New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes as a reference for specific materials, their efficacy, and use considerations. Remember however that the guidelines are written largely for vinifera and less disease-resistant hybrids, so the specific spray programs recommended may be overkill in Vermont vineyards.

The warm weather in the next few days may increase emergence of grape flea beetle or cutworms. Grapes are susceptible through about the one inch shoot growth stage, so this could be a short window and the vines may well outgrow any threat pretty quickly. A scouting of your vineyard for feeding on swelling buds or developing shoots may be warranted. If damage is evident on more than 2% of buds, an insecticide treatment may be warranted. But if shoots expand rapidly over the weekend, don’t worry about this pest.

Since buds at ground level have begun to emerge, applications of systemic herbicides should either be halted or very carefully controlled to prohibit contact with green tissue. Now is an appropriate time for cultivation in vineyards to manage weeds. It’s also a good time to keep water on newly planted or young vines. With soil warming and growth beginning, nitrogen fertilizer applications, if needed based on foliar analyses or observed low vigor last year, may also be made now.