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Viticulture Association of the Santa Cruz Mountains

  Canopy Management I

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Fruit set!

The season took off early this year and hasnít stopped yet. This is great news so far Ė if we can keep up the heat units it will be a fantastic year.

Now is the time to focus on canopy management. Premium fruit loves light (in a stippled sort of way) and air. It is essential to allow free air movement through the canopy so that moisture is not allowed to be trapped and settle on the maturing berries. Even moisture from dew or fog can be an issue so open up those canopies (within reason).  At least remove the leaves from underneath the fruit and where leaves are layered on top of one another. Fruit sunburn can be just as damaging so donít overdo.

Leaf removal will be the main topic of discussion at our June 16 meeting, and many growers and consultants will be contributing their experience and methods. This process, though expensive (if you hire it out) and time consuming is a vital step toward creating the goal of premium fruit.  Research has documented that leaf removal at the proper time (post fruit set) is as important as spray applications to combat botrytis and powdery mildew and improve fruit quality.

Speaking of mildew (though no one likes to): now is the time to take a look at your fruit very carefully. If you have it in the vineyard it will start to show on the fruit now. I have already heard rumors that it is beginning to show on fruit that may have missed a spray interval or be in a hot spot. If you had powdery mildew last year, go to the area where it was the worst and see if there is an infection trying to rear itís ugly head. Now is the time to deal with it!

If you actually see mildew on your grapes you will want to use an eradicant. One effective eradicant spray that I am aware of is a product called ďArmicarbĒ produced by Helena Corporation in Salinas. It costs $5/lb and is applied at a rate of 5 lbs. / 100 gallons. Contact Helena directly in Salinas, as they have no other distributor in this area.

I am sure that there are other approaches to early mildew. A sulfur wash has also been recommended, and this can be effective. The problem is that sulfur is a suppressant and will hold down the infection but not eliminate it.  Sulfur is also bad for flavor. Ideally, growers are reducing or eliminating it from the spray program around now.

Flint and Elite have also proven to be very effective in keeping infections at bay. Elevate is a proven post-rain event spray for botrytis.

I am looking forward to hearing from other growers at the next meeting about how they are holding up this year and dealing with disease issues. If we can share information with each other it will elevate the quality of fruit in our appellation and that is good for everyone.

On another note we are looking for a small group of creative volunteers who want to put together a display for the Santa Cruz County Fair this September.  The Winegrowers Assn. is always there but we would like the viticulture of the region to stand up and be recognized.  Itís important for the public to understand the importance of where their grapes come from.  If you are interested in contributing please sign up at the next meeting or contact Mary Lindsay or myself at the numbers provided.  Thank you to the members who have already expressed interest in this project.

Happy summer!
- Prudy Foxx

(Vine Talk column, June, 2004)

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