This month Chris Cooper and Rob Saunders, vine specialists in the Hutchinsons Horticultural Team, are making observations on the current status of the vine crop. 

Most vineyard owners and managers we see are very open to new ideas and motivated to take a “softer” approach to pest, disease and weed control. More growers are investing in cultivation machines to keep herbicide strips clear, using bio-film in establishing vineyards, and a plant-derived material as a contact weed control and to burn off the lower unwanted buds and investigating organic mulches and cover crops.

These lower environmental impact approaches are also being used on the leaf canopy. It’s our objective to help growers achieve this, whether that is through supply of next-generation, bio-rational crop protection products such as Fytosave from Gowan or Amylo X from Certis, or through the use of bio-stimulants.

Bio-stimulants typically have multiple effects on a plant, making the product’s claims sometimes difficult to unpick. An example is Cultigrow CBL. It’s a naturally derived formulation based on flavonoids extracted from bitter orange (Citrus aurantheum). Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytochemicals implicated in plant health and resilience. Applied to vines three times, at key points in the growth cycle, it appears to stimulate natural processes that enhance nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to environmental stress and crop quality. This was borne out in replicated trials at East Malling last year when researchers noted improved plant health including significantly increased resistance to powdery mildew. 

There are times when a more traditional approach is needed, and one such example is when dealing with non-indigenous pests like spotted wing drosophila (SWD), which have few natural predators or parasites in the UK which could moderate populations. Growers are encouraged to monitor levels as described in the WineGB “Green Book” and treat accordingly. Although there are limited control products available, WineGB are engaging with the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) who are listening and have made it clear they will endeavour to make another product available to growers before veraison.