Chris Cooper and Rob Saunders, vine specialists in the Hutchinsons Horticultural Team, discuss the season to date in vineyards.

Chris says: “Even with the cold and wet winter delaying vine development, such that vineyards are at least two to three weeks behind last year, bud burst is expected late April to Early May and, with some decent warm weather, growth will rapidly catch up.”   

Rob says: “With warmer weather expected, the wet, cold soils should start drying out allowing machinery to travel in the vineyards without damaging the ground; these are one of the benefits of grass alleys so spray applications including herbicide use can be undertaken and there may be a chance for some sub-soiling to break compaction areas, enhance the drainage and get some air movement into the soil.”

“Most of the canes are now tied down, being such a late season most of the sacrifice canes and extra buds have now been cut out although a few growers are still delaying tying down as they have bad memories of the late frost in 2017,” he warns.

“With bud burst imminent, foliar fungicide applications are expected to start very soon, so growers should make sure their equipment is functioning optimally while leaves begin to appear and take the opportunity to reduce early infection of powdery mildew, downy mildew and Phomopsis viticola.”

Chris agrees; and said Recently I shared a platform with Dr Peter Spencer-Phillips UWE Bristol, one of the UK’s leading experts on oomycete infections of food crops. This was a Wineskills day where I co-presented on control options. Peter said that downy mildew has two spore stages and either stage will infect green tissue at any point. Although asexual spores are produced in large numbers later in the season and when visual infection becomes obvious, the risk of infection is there right from bud burst, particularly if growers suffered from the disease in 2017. This means early protection is important with fungicides and growers should start their control strategy sooner rather than later. Growers can also reduce leaf bud mite substantially using a Sulphur + Wetcit mix early on.”

Rob said, “As growth continues, rogueing of mildew flag shoots can be stepped up, and growers should be discussing their 2018 programmes against all diseases and pests for the coming year with their specialist vine agronomist.”