Grape flea beetle, weed management

By Terence Bradshaw

May 5, 2019

Buds are swelling in Vermont orchards. I haven’t looked at our vines in South Burlington since Friday, and they were fully swelled then, but I cleaned up my vines at home (1500’ elevation, Washington county) today and they were quite swelled up. I expect bud break any day now. Flea beetles are the main insect of concern at this point, and really only when bud swell through 1” shoot growth is slowed and the buds remain at this susceptible state for more than a week or so. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on buds and consider treating if more than 2% of buds are damaged. Remember, buds are no longer susceptible after 1” shoot growth, so if you make it past that stage, then don’t worry about them. This is really only a problem in years with a cool, drawn-out spring, and even then, the damage is rarely of economic significance. Clearing brush piles from around vineyard edges can help to reduce this pest.

Now that buds are swelling, I’d avoid use of systemic herbicides in vineyards unless you have a really good shield system to avoid contact with green tissue. This is a good time to burn down weeds, though, and an application of glufosinate can be effective now. Adding a premergent material like Chateau can extend weed control for a longer period. On the other hand, I find that in-row vegetation can help with excess soil moisture and vine vigor, as long as it is managed. I’m not promoting just letting the weeds go in a planting, and groundcover should be mowed and kept out of the canopy during the growing season.

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