Agronomy diary

Chris Cooper and Rob Saunders, vine specialists at Hutchinsons, discuss the season. 

Harvest is later than last year but now well underway and the quality and quantity of grapes looks encouraging – next we look to the winemakers to work their magic, as the more autumnal weather approaches.

If your site escaped the frost, the subsequent temperatures have been largely favourable. A review of the Met office records for summer temperatures (the mean for June, July and August) reveals that the high of 2018 (17.73°C) has not been repeated, but the 2019 reading of 16.72°C is usefully in line with the new norm. But it has been much wetter: 101 mm in 2018, more than doubling to 220 mm in 2019, and that is reflected in the prevalence of downy mildew, even on the best managed sites. 

Mites appear to have been favoured by the warmth of 2018, followed by the stop/start spring which gave rise to a poorly synchronised, protracted emergence, so timings of spring treatments were difficult, and in places mite populations were substantial enough to stunt initial leaf and shoot development. Where applied early, Batavia (spirotetramat) has been very effective. 

Unsettled weather, typical in October, favours Botrytis. There are protectant materials available should a short harvest interval botryticide be required. The severity of infection at this time of year depends on how robust the programme was around flowering, along with the myriad management decisions influencing spray cover, bunch architecture, fruit exposure and nutrition. 

There will be a bit of time to feed the vines before leaf fall occurs; this can include Copper to assist in improving cane quality and then the pruning can commence. 

We are told that “The Ashes” are not the only thing returning to Australia this year, our good friend Dr Richard Smart is also moving back. The author of the Plumpton Students must-have textbook “Sunlight into Wine”, he was never one to hold back on giving an opinion and debate a position he believed to be correct. At Hutchinson’s we will miss those forthright thoughts and we wish him all the best for the future.

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