Controlling Those Pesky Pests and Debilitating Diseases In Your Vineyard

By: Gerald Dlubala

man inspecting crops

Pest and disease management are always on the minds of vineyard managers and grape growers. Because of that, it’s also on the mind of Don Yadon, the Southern California Sales Manager for Sym-Agro Inc, serving the horticultural and agricultural markets with a comprehensive assortment of fertilizers, fungicides, biologicals and pesticides.

  “Because of the potential damage to vines and fruit by the end of the growing season, it’s an annual ritual for both growers and field consultants to focus on Vine Mealy Bugs, Leafhoppers and a trio of mites, including the Two-Spotted, Willamette and Pacific Spider mites,” said Yadon. “Under favorable conditions, mite pest populations can grow exponentially in a short time and overwhelm the vine’s ability to manufacture downstream carbohydrates, leading to less marketable fruit. Mealybug and leafhopper populations have a similar effect but can also devastate fruit appearance and quality.”

  Sym-Agro offers an Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certified solution labeled Cinnerate, an emulsified Cinnamon oil that controls pest mites, mealybugs, and leafhoppers by interfering with the pest respiration system through either physical contact or fuming activity. By its nature, Cinnerate is environmentally and plant safe, working in concert with critical beneficial predators to keep pest populations below threshold levels. In addition, it is a great companion when used with mating disruption products. Cinnerate can be tank-mixed with narrow range oils and can be applied with sulfur if desired.

  “Cinnerate is effectively used with both organic and conventional grapes as a successful and sustainable solution to control pests,” said Yadon. “Applications of Cinnerate are most effective when starting early in crop development before canopy become dense. Cinnerate controls pests through contact, so adequate coverage is paramount for success. Growers using multiple applications of Cinnerate during the season are experiencing less disease and insect pressure, higher quality fruit, and a more robust beneficial predator resume. And early applications naturally result in lower pest populations even before the availability of beneficial predators.”

  Debilitating crop disease is another issue that has to be addressed early. Yadon said that future trends in the wine industry would likely include increases in mechanical field practices, including harvesting and pruning. These increased practices will transform basic vine architecture and impact both insect and disease behavior patterns. Additionally, changing weather patterns combined with the possibility of increasing heat and accompanying water restrictions will impact vines, increase trunk disease pressure,  lessen foliar disease pressure, and impact insect populations and species.

  “Sym-Agro offers a robust lineup of fungicides and bactericides for use on all types of grape crops that includes multi-site mode of action compounds with very low resistance and excellent crop safety,” said Yadon. “Powdery Mildew probably causes the most damage, followed by Botrytis and Sour Rot, so growers dedicate significant resources to assure disease-free grapes. Powdery Mildew is especially problematic, so control starts at budbreak to knock down spores that overwinter and stop the disease from gaining an early foothold. The best Powdery Mildew strategy is preventative and flexible enough to include a curative if an expression starts to develop. Resistance management is also important, so early applications with a multi-site mode of action fungicide with low resistance are the best guard against resistance later in the year. Conditions for favorable Botrytis growth usually show up later in the growing season, but early-season treatments from budbreak to early bloom are warranted if necessary.”

  Sym-Ago’s Instill copper bactericide/fungicide is an ideal choice for budbreak treatments to reduce overwintering Powdery Mildew spores and Phomopsis, a type of fungus. Instill is a low-dose multi-chelated copper that protects new bud tissue. It has 14-21-day protection and is rain safe in just a few hours. Tank mixing Instill copper with sulfur at budbreak enhances control. Instill can safely be used all season long for preventative control of Powdery Mildew, Botrytis, Downey Mildew and Sour Rot.

  Along with being an option for mite, mealybug, and leafhopper control, Cinnerate is also an OMRI-certified replacement for oxidizers or potassium carbonates and functions as a contact curative fungicide for Powdery Mildew. Additionally, Cinnerate is an effective pre-harvest treatment for post-harvest fruit quality in table grapes.

  “And now, our growers have an additional and powerful Powdery Mildew and Botrytis fungicide to use in conventional and organic grapes called ProBlad Verde,” said Yadon. “It comes from the Lupin plant as a seed protection protein and has a multi-site mode of action with meager resistance potential. ProBlad Verde is most effective when used as a preventative, providing 7-14-day protection, and can be positioned as a stand-alone or with other fungicides. Due to its curative and preventative action, it works well early to keep the disease in check and works well after the onset of ripening to keep fruit disease-free.”

  Yadon tells The Grapevine Magazine that Sym-Agro dedicates significant resources to test and validate the efficacy of their products, paying very close attention specifically to offering products that do not mark, spot or damage the fruit. As a result, Sym-Agro offers value-added products with proven, successful, plant-safe patterns of use that result in superior formulations and effective, practical applications.

  “A high percentage of the products we offer are biochemicals or biological and therefore plant-friendly,” said Yadon. “The grower’s plants and trees do not have to manipulate or metabolize any chemicals because they are not alien to the plant. Our products leverage secondary plant defenses that add to plant health, disease, and insect control. In the future, you’ll see an increase in the use of beneficial predators, less dependence on chemical pesticides, and increased use of plant-friendly pesticides and sustainable products that stimulate a plant’s internal defenses via ISR (Integrated Stress Response) and SAR (Systemic Acquired Response) pathways. Fewer broad-spectrum insecticides will be in demand, and we’ll likely see an increased demand for anti-stress products like Sym-Agro’s ECKOSIL to strengthen plant cell walls and make it more difficult for pests to penetrate leaf surfaces. We will also likely see expanded use of mating disruption products in pest control.”

Suterra: Using Mating Disruption To Deter Vine Mealybug’s Destructiveness

  “Vineyard managers tell us that their biggest pest challenge is the increasing spread of the vine mealybug (VMB),” said Emily Symmes, Ph.D., Senior Manager of Technical Field Services for Suterra, a global leader in sustainable pest control. “The vine mealybug is a triple threat because it not only infests and feeds on the fruit resulting in unmarketable bunches, it also spreads grapevine leafroll viruses that eventually kill otherwise healthy vines. In addition, vine mealybugs also produce a sticky residue called honeydew that leads to the contamination of clusters with sooty mold, degrading the value of the crop.”

  Vine mealybug is the primary insect concern because it is an invasive species that also happens to be the most aggressive of the mealybug species that attack grapes. It has more generations, produces more honeydew, and is the only mealybug that spreads to all plant parts, from roots to upper canopy leaves. As an invasive species, there are fewer natural checks and balances in place to help mitigate populations.

  “While there are a few chemical management options available, the more these are used, the higher the likelihood that insecticide resistance will develop,” said Symmes. “The good news is that there are Integrated Pest Management (IPM) options for VMB management that do not pose a risk of resistance development, including pheromone mating disruption products, ant control, and natural enemies such as parasitoids and predators.”

  Suterra has a long history of innovation. Along with helping growers by using unique pheromone-based products to protect crops with zero harmful residues, Suterra was the first company to manufacture products that lower the population of the vine mealybugs by disrupting their mating habits. In addition, their CheckMate® products reduce damage and extend the lifespan of conventional tools by helping fight insecticide resistance and contribute to maximizing the efficacy of insecticide inputs where needed.

  “Mating disruption products have now been shown for decades to be a reliable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technique,” said Symmes. “The wine and grape growing industry is incredibly progressive and sustainably-minded. As a result, we are seeing more regions establish and take steps to collaborate on programs for area-wide mating disruption, with its use increasing dramatically year over year as growers realize the benefits and return on investment.”

  Suterra’s CheckMate® VMB-F and CheckMate® VMB-XL are synthetic replicas of the vine mealybug sexual reproduction pheromone. Both CheckMate® products can be used to complement any spray program and are compatible with all other integrated pest management IPM tools, from beneficial natural enemies to conventional insecticides. The flexibility and compatibility of the products have led to widespread adoption of mating disruption for vine mealybug since Suterra first registered them.

  CheckMate® VMB-Fis a sprayable pheromone most often applied using conventional vineyard spray equipment and can be tank-mixed with many common agrochemicals. Symmes said they’ve seen aerial applications via drone and helicopter depending on the time of year and vineyard access. Most will use standard spray equipment during the season, typically spraying about every 30 days, depending on the local climate, amount of pest activity, and grape variety. No additional education or licensing requirements exist for the CheckMate® VMB-F application beyond what you’d have for any insecticide application.

  CheckMate® VMB-XL is a membrane dispenser. These are easily attached once per season to the cordon or trellis in a uniform pattern using a specially designed hook attached to the dispenser, allowing them to emit pheromone all season long. CheckMate® VMB-XL is approved for organic production by the EPA’s National Organic Program and is popular with organic and conventional producers who prefer to hang this once per season over intermittent spraying. Based on recent trials in Europe, CheckMate® VMB-XL is the longest-lasting VMB dispenser on the market.

  “By hanging VMB-XL dispensers or spraying VMB-F microcapsules, vineyard managers confuse flying male vine mealybugs so they cannot find females to mate with,” said Symmes. “While naturally reducing the pest’s overall populations and thereby decreasing crop damage, our solutions are safe for all of the beneficial species as well. However, it is important to note that although area-wide mating disruption is not necessary for mating disruption to have great impacts within individual vineyards, coordinated efforts in monitoring and disruption would benefit the entire industry. In many permanent crops, there is a desire to move toward automation when it comes to monitoring which is understandable given labor issues and advances in technology that show potential for this approach. However, fully comprehensive monitoring and visual scouting programs remain the gold standard when we engage with growers. Trap-based monitoring is only one of several approaches to gain the information necessary to develop an effective IPM program, especially for invasive pests like vine mealybug.”

Sustainability Is Key To Long-Term Pest Control

  “We see that most vineyard owners measure sustainability in generations,” said Symmes. “When you’re the fifth generation in your family to grow on land, no one cares more about the sustainability of that land than you. Suterra partners with growers looking to reduce the adverse impacts of pest control in their vineyard and on the planet by avoiding the ever-increasing applications of insecticides. Sustainable pest control, especially species-specific tools like CheckMate® VMB, allows growers to effectively reduce populations and damage while eliminating all non-target species and adverse environmental impacts, leading to healthier waterways, protection of pollinators and other non-target species, and a reduction in carbon emissions from spray equipment. That means improving biodiversity and protecting pollinators, topics that are important to the fruit and wine consumer. It also helps achieve greater worker safety for farmworkers and vineyard managers and eliminates any concern over harmful crop residues.”

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