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

There are now 2,900 hectares under vines in the UK, three times what there was in 2000. An estimated 3 million more vines have been planted this year. Good weed control in the first year is a prerequisite to successful establishment – herbicide options are limited so don’t overlook the use of biodegradable film mulch, which can be laid after planting.

There has been frost damage on some areas. Fortunately not many growers have been affected but, in a few isolated instances, significant amounts of the primary buds were killed, which brings the challenge of managing a crop arising from both primary and secondary buds, with its mixed maturity, and possibility of excess canopy vigour.

As flowering approaches a few pests are attracted to vines. Thrips can cause crinkled foliage and berry russeting and are most commonly encountered adjacent to woodland. Pollen beetle is not a significant pest, though is commonly seen. More problematic is Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM), catches of which have been high this year. The first generation dine on the clusters, leading to yield reduction but there is great variability of moth numbers site to site, so monitor your trap catches carefully.

The use of Shark (carfentrazone) as a herbicide and/or to desiccate the lower buds on the vine trunk is common practice, but with Certis, we are trialling Finalsan (pelargonic acid), which is a naturally derived plant substance, to see if this can achieve the same result. 

Regalis Plus (prohexadione-calcium) can be used to improve bunch architecture, reducing botrytis occurrence in cultivars such as Pinot Noir. Target application timing is 30-50% cap fall; discuss rates with your agronomist. An alternative is Florgib, a natural plant growth regulator, though exercise caution as poor timing or overuse does affect the return flower the following season.