VT Grape IPM: Buds swelling, flea beetles, lime sulfur, weed management

Buds are swelling in Vermont vineyards. At the UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center in South Burlington, yesterday, bud stages sorted into two general categories. Most ‘Minnesota’ cultivars (Marquette, Brianna, Itasca, Frontenac) are at the ‘wool’ bud stage; and most of the newer Plocher cultivars (also from Minnesota- Petite Pearl, Crimson Pearl, Verona) are a little behind at the bud swell stage. I’d expect bud break very soon, which brings up concerns for frost damage, what with it being April 27 and all. I made some comments on frost in a post from a few years ago that I will repreat again:

“There has been some recent discussion among growers about frost control measures after the cold snap that affected some vineyards. Questions about irrigating for frost control came up, and I’ll give my take on the subject: it is rarely worth it. Unless the irrigation system is carefully designed specifically for frost control (i.e. capable of outputting sufficient water to provide protection to the whole canopy), is run during the entire freezing event, and conditions such as low dew point or wind do prevent effective heat release from forming ice, then the significant effort likely won’t pay off and may cause even more damage than doing nothing at all. Frost fans are more commonly used in larger production regions, but they are very expensive and require their own specific conditions to be effective. I’ll echo comments made by others on the matter: the best frost control is good site selection, followed by good vine management. Row covers may be effective in mitigating frost conditions, but have their own infrastructure needs particularly a wire suspended above the canopy at 7-8 feet on which to hang the cover, and significant labor to apply and remove. I do not have experience to suggest a fabric type that would work best.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a bit while we ride this out.

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.

The window to treat vines with liquid lime sulfur (LLS) for phpompsis and other disease management is closing as vine growth increases, do not consider applying high doses of that material to vines with green tissue showing. I described the use of LLS in my April 3, 2017 message.

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.