Why Should I Buy Crop Insurance?  

By: Trevor Troyer, VP, Agricultural Risk Management

That is a question I hear a lot. For some it makes sense to purchase crop insurance, depending on the growing risks they are dealing with.  For others it might not be as good a fit for them. Often times large growing operations may “self-insure” as they have reserves set aside for the upcoming season.  For some this is not an option as a large portion of the previous year’s income is being re-invested into the new crop.  If they don’t make a crop and sell it this year, they might not have enough money for next year. 

  How does this apply to a vineyard?  Perennials are very different from traditional row crops or vegetable crops.  But a lot of the risks are very much the same.  Drought, freeze, wildlife damage, fire/smoke and the list goes on. From what I see the risks can actually be more with perennials.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an apple orchard, avocado grove or vineyard, your investment is subject to the elements all year round.  Things may happen after you harvest that might affect the following year’s crop production. 

  Risks are different depending on growing regions throughout the US.  You might have grower in Chautauqua or Erie County in New York worried about frost/freeze and then a grower in Sonoma County in California worried about smoke taint.  Regional issues play a large part in decisions on whether or not crop insurance is right for you.  And then how much coverage is needed for the risks involved in making a good profitable crop.

  With rising production costs this makes decisions on crop insurance even more tricky.  Chemical prices are rising, fertilizer is at an all-time high shipping and labor costs are also up.  Can you afford to purchase crop insurance? Or can you afford not to have it with how much you have invested now? These are questions that have to be asked.  I have had growers ask about reducing their coverage as these other costs go up.  You then have to ask how much of a loss can you sustain and not have it affect your ability to keep growing.  Can you lose 20% of your tonnage?  What about 40%?  That is something, you as a grower, have to think about.

  Crop insurance is designed to help a grower have enough money to be able to produce a crop the following year.  It is not set up to replace profits lost from an insurable cause.  I have had winery owners complain to me that it doesn’t cover the cost of how much their wine is worth.  While I can totally understand this, it is the growing costs that are being insured against loss. Crop insurance does not cover the production costs of making wine or juice etc.  Only Causes of Loss that are nature related are being insured against.  It doesn’t cover the inability of a grower to sell his grapes or broken contracts with wineries or processors. 

  Here are the Causes of Loss for Grapes out of a National Fact Sheet from the USDA:

Causes of Loss

You are protected against the following:

•   Adverse weather conditions, including natural perils such as hail, frost, freeze, wind, drought, and excess precipitation.

•   Earthquake

•   Failure of the irrigation water supply, if caused by an insured peril during the insurance period.

•   Fire

•   Insects and plant disease, except for insufficient or improper application of pest or disease control measures.

•   Wildlife

•   Volcanic eruption.

Additionally, we will not insure against:

•   Phylloxera, regardless of cause.

•   Inability to market the grapes for any reason other than actual physical damage for an insurable cause of loss.

  Crop insurance is partially subsidized through the USDA. Premiums are subsidized from 100% at Catastrophic Coverage (there is an administrative fee though) to 38% depending on coverage level chosen.  A lot of growers “buy-up” coverage from 65% to 80% and their premium subsidy is around 50% to 60%. In my opinion it has to be subsidized, as crop insurance is more likely to pay out a claim than any other type of insurance. Premiums are more expensive than many other types of insurance. You do not hear too often of people that have had an auto accident 3 years out of 5 with a claim paid each of those years.  But that being said, I have seen vineyards have payable losses 3 out of 5 years.   No one wants to have a loss but they do unfortunately happen.

  Hopefully you don’t have a lot situations where you have a loss.  But as a grower you need to assess your risks.  These risks/concerns are more than just the causes of loss mentioned above.  Though these have to be taken into consideration for the growing region your vineyard is located in. Here are some other questions to ask yourself. What are your break-even costs?  Do you know your cost of

production with projected inflation? Have you evaluated the risk of a severe crop loss? What varieties are planted in your vineyard?  Some types of Vitis vinifera are more susceptible to weather issues than others. Are you able to repay current operating loans without crop insurance in the event of a loss?

  Grape crop insurance is available in the following states; Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.  Crop insurance may not be available in all counties in these states. 

  Our job as a crop insurance agent or crop insurance agency is not to convince you that you need crop insurance.  It is to help you make an educated decision, based on your risks, to whether or not you need crop insurance.  And then, if it is a good fit to mitigate your risks, to determine how much coverage is needed. 

Should You Plant Your Next Vineyard Without North-South Rows?

By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

Row orientation is one of the first decisions a grower makes when planting a new vineyard. But how much does this decision matter, and what should you consider when choosing row orientation?

  For generations, many have touted north-south (N-S) row orientation as a best practice because it exposes the canopy to the most direct sunlight. But modern research suggests that, like many things, it is more complicated than this.

  For some vineyards, north-south is the best choice. But a strict north-south stance could overlook other factors like field shape, variety, climate, convenience, and even aesthetics. The freedom to consider different row orientations can improve multiple aspects of vineyard management.

Benefits of North-South Orientation

  Simply speaking, N-S row orientation directs more uniform solar radiation to the full canopy, compared to East-West (E-W) orientation. The east side of the canopy is exposed to direct light in the morning and the west side in the afternoon. A 2008 study (Grifoni et al) found that N-S rows received increased and more uniform solar radiation, and as a result, photosynthesis.

  With E-W rows, the south side gets more direct sun than the north, possibly meaning that south-facing fruit ripens faster than north-facing fruit.

Why “It’s Complicated”

  In theory, north-south row direction could enhance ripening and fruit quality by increasing sunlight exposure. However, current research paints a less clear picture.

  Much of the research I have found was done in the southern hemisphere. Several of these studies took place in the same Shiraz vineyard in South Africa. Without much research in US climates, it is hard to draw too many conclusions about the region where I work, or the varieties we grow in the Midwest.

  Secondly, many factors play into a grower’s decisions about row orientation beyond just sunlight interception, which I delve into later.

  A 2015 study on mature vines in this South African vineyard found no significant difference in anthocyanins or grape mechanical composition between NS and EW rows. However, a later study from the same vineyard in a different year found that EW rows had lower soluble solid/titratable acidity ratios, lower anthocyanins, and lower phenolics. The other row orientations like N-S, NE-SW, and NW-SE ripened faster and produced better wine quality. Additionally, one study found that N-S rows had slightly higher yields than the other orientations.

  While light exposure is of course important, too much direct sunlight on fruit can be just as harmful as over-shading. It can cause sunscald, which degrades the fruit and leads to rotting. For this reason, a grower with a south-facing VSP vineyard in a hot, sunny region may consider planting on NE-SW or E-W orientation to limit excess exposure. If N-S orientation is selected, the grower can alter canopy management practices like leaf removal to control overexposure.

  Other factors to weigh against row orientation

Growers should weigh various other decisions against row orientation when planting a vineyard. Field shape, variety, trellis system, weather, and climate all influence the bottom line and could either outweigh or exaggerate the impact of row orientation.

  Like row orientation, trellis systems also affect sunlight exposure and ripening. In theory, planting N-S rows to Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) could compound the effect of row orientation by further increasing sun exposure. Planting on Single High Wire (SHW) might reduce the sun exposure for vines in N-S rows, protecting them from sunscald in hot, sunny areas.

  Consider the field shape, row length and number of rows when deciding row orientation. If a field is long from east to west and narrow from north to south, the east-west row orientation would mean longer and fewer rows, less turning around, and fewer end posts to install.

  Varieties: In short-season regions like the upper Midwest and Northeast, varieties with longer ripening times should benefit more from NS orientation than shorter-season varieties. For example, Frontenac is a popular cold hardy hybrid that needs a long ripening period to lower acidity. I would hypothesize that NS orientation might benefit Frontenac by helping it ripen faster, avoiding the first frost. Shorter season hybrids like Itasca, Marquette, and LaCrescent that ripen well before the first frost may benefit less from NS row orientation. More research on the cold hardy hybrids is needed to support this hypothesis.

  Consider your climate as well. In hot, dry, sunny regions, grapes on the western side of N-S rows, and the southern side of E-W rows, are at a higher risk of sunscald. Sunscald risk would be further increased by using VSP trellising and late leaf removal. The sun hits the west side of the N-S canopy in the afternoon when temperatures are highest and sunlight is most intense. For this reason, growers may rotate the rows by 45 degrees, opting for a SW-NE orientation. As some regions become hotter and drier, practices to mitigate overexposure will be important (source).

  Lastly, an individual winery may have aesthetic reasons to choose one orientation over another, like creating the perfect wedding photo spot or a dramatic view down a hill.

  Row orientation is just one of the many factors determining the overall success of a vineyard. Hopefully this information helps growers plug it into the big picture when making key vineyard planting decisions.

Exploring New Practices for Managing Trunk Disease

By: Becky Garrison

During the Oregon Wine Symposium, held virtually from February 15-17, 2022, Akif Eskalen, Professor of Cooperative Extension, UC Davis, offered his insights into the identification, biology, epidemiology and current management strategies of grapevine trunk diseases.

  In Eskalen’s estimation, GTDs are considered one of the most significant challenges for viticulture across the globe. These harmful diseases can be found on the spurs, cordon, trunk and rootstock of the grapevine and gain entry primarily via pruning wounds. GTDs are caused by a broad range of permanent, wood-colonizing fungal pathogens. They are also present as part of normal grapevine microbiota, with environmental factors triggering them to switch from normal to pathogenic.

  When examining the fungal pathogens responsible for creating GTDs, Eskalen found that most of these pathogens produce overwintering fruiting structures containing infectious spores. These overwintering structures are found in old pruning wounds, harvesting debris, the bark surface of infected vines and other woody perennial crops such as nut and fruit trees.

  Researchers have identified more than 130 different fungal species associated with GTDs. Commonly found in both young and mature vines was Black Foot disease, and Petri disease was found predominant in young vines. Researchers found Esca (black measles), Botryosphaeria dieback, Eutypa and Phomopsis dieback in mature vines. These are called canker diseases because they cause characteristic perennial cankers in the vines. The word canker comes from the Greek word “cancer,” which describes dead tissue in living organisms. Perennial cankers cause spur, cordon, and trunk dieback, ultimately resulting in the death of the entire vine. Other significant symptoms of the presence of GTDS in vines include poor vigor, stunted shoots, leaf chlorosis and stripe, berry specks and shoot and tendril dieback.

  In analyzing the lifestyle of this disease, Eskalen said that if the infection cannot be controlled in the cordon, it’s going to move into the main trunk. Once it settles there, the trouble starts. As the main trunk is the essential part of the plant, the pathogen will move faster because more woody tissues and nutrition are in that area.

  Should the pathogen reach the graft union, then it is too late to do anything about managing GTDs. In some cases, black foot and charcoal rot diseases are caused by a soil-borne pathogen complex. Once they colonize the roots and lower level of the trunk, nothing much can be done to save the vines.

  Through Eskalen’s research at the UC Cooperative Extension Eskalen Lab, he’s discovered that pruning wounds are the primary entry point for these fungal pathogens.

  “Some of them could be entering the plant without the pruning wounds, but the major entry point is the pruning wounds because…there is no defense mechanism,” Eskalen said. As soon as the fungal spores land on the tip of the wound, sap provides enough nutrients to the fungi for them to colonize.

  Another infection method is latent infection, occurring when the fungal pathogens release from their source and land on the tissue without causing further problems until the right conditions come, such as when the vine is stressed by factors like nutrition, climate change and irrigation.

  According to Eskalen Lab’s research, conducted with California-based farmers, most spores appear to be released during precipitation events from December to February. Since this time overlaps with pruning season, there’s a window for the fruiting bodies (i.e., overwintering spore structures) to release fungal spores onto exposed pruning wounds and cause infection. Eskalen estimates that pruning wounds could be susceptible for several months and that pruning wound protection is essential in vineyards during this time.

Mitigating Grapevine Trunk Disease

  GTDs are vascular diseases, which means they can colonize the wood part of the plant. As the symptoms above are caused by mycotoxin, or toxins produced by the fungus in the vascular tissue, applying fungicide, or anything from outside, to control it will not work because these pathogens are present inside the wood.

  Pruning wound protection strategies alongside cultural practices are the best strategies to mitigate GTDs. Cultural practices focus on sanitation, including using clean material when establishing a new vineyard, removing pruned and infected material, and pruning dead shoots, spurs, and cordons below the symptomatic tissue.

  In Eskalen’s estimation, the most effective way to protect pruning wounds from airborne fungal spores of GTDs is to apply registered fungicides or biological pruning wound protectants annually. These treatments should be sprayed the same day if applying synthetic chemicals. To avoid inclement weather from washing the solution away, apply these protectants after pruning and during a dry weather window. If beneficial fungal species, known as biocontrol agents, are used, Eskalen said it could be better to have sap accumulation on the wound so they can colonize and compete with the pathogens.

  In their research, Eskalen Lab found that delayed pruning after the high disease pressure period was another option for mitigating GTD infection. Eskalen said some of the powdery mildew fungicides might control some of the GTD pathogens, but the lab doesn’t spray powdery mildew fungicides during the dormant season.

  Commercial chemical protectants shown to be effective in controlling GTDs include a combination of Rally and Topsin-M. Currently, Eskalen Labs is researching biological wound protectants that are more sustainable.

  Assessing the Economic Impact of GTDs

According to the data collected by Eskalen dating back twenty years, if a grower did not do any preventative practices for GTDs when initially planting the vines, the vineyard will start to see GTDs within the first five to 15 years. By then, the vineyard has matured, and removal becomes far more difficult than if the recommended treatments had been applied from the beginning.

  Those looking for a more in-depth analysis of the work of Eskalen Lab and the latest research on treatments for GTDs, go to https://ucanr.edu/sites/eskalenlab.

  Eskalen Lab’s website offers these suggestions for managing GTDs in the nursery and vineyard.

Preventative Management in Nursery

•   Treat pruning wounds on mother plants to prevent new infections.

•   Sanitation in mother fields and during the entire nursery process.

•   Disinfect grafting machines regularly.

•   Reduction of the cutting hydration period.

•   Apply control products (chemicals or biologicals) as a dip after grafting, before storage and/or before dispatch.

•   Hot water treatment of dormant nursery plants prior to dispatch.

Preventative Management in Vineyards

•   Use the cleanest plant material available when establish new vineyards.

•   Protection of pruning wounds with effective registered chemicals and/or biological control agents is the most effective way to prevent new infections from air-borne spores of GTD fungal pathogens. More than one application may be necessary to protect the pruning wound during its susceptible time period.

•   Minimize stress conditions on young vines after planting.

•   In applicable, In VSP systems, double pruning has shown to facilitate late pruning of large acreage vineyards and thus, reduce infection.

•   Prune dead shoots, spurs and cordons below the symptomatic tissue (at least a few inches past the last symptomatic wood).

•   Make a clean and smooth pruning cut to speed up the callusing process at the pruning wound.

•   Sanitation is very important in the vineyard. Remove pruned and infected plant materials away to prevent the development and increase of GTD fungi overwintering structures in the vineyard.

•   Remedial surgery, where visible infected parts of the vine (spurs, cordons and/or trunk) are removed, can be an effective strategy to remove the pathogen from the vine (primarily when cuts are done 7” to 10” below the visual canker tissue) and thus, prolong the lifespan of vineyards.

Preventative Management in Vineyards

•   Protect pruning wounds.

•   Use disease free, clean plant materials when establish new vineyards.

•   Apply good cultural practices to minimize stress on young and mature vines.

•   Delay dormant pruning to avoid potential pathogen dissemination during winter precipitation and to reduce the susceptibility.

•   If applicable, consider doing double pruning to reduce fungal spore infection during winter moths.

•   Prune dead shoots, spurs and cordons below the symptomatic tissue (at least a few inches below).

•   Make a clean and smooth pruning cut to speed up the callusing process at the pruning wound.

•   Remove pruned plant materials away from the vineyard to prevent fungi to form pycnidia and perithecia.

AMPHORA: Bringing the Past Into the Present

By: Nan McCreary

Wine fermented, aged and stored in clay amphora, a practice that originated in Georgia 6,000-8,000 years ago, is experiencing a renaissance around the globe as winemakers realize that this ancient technique brings new opportunities to viniculture.

  An amphora is “an ancient Greek or Roman jar or vase with a large oval body, narrow cylindrical neck and two handles that rise almost to the level of the mouth.” In ancient times, amphorae were the principal means for transporting and storing grapes, olive oil, wine, oil, olives, grain, fish and other supplies. Georgia was the center of amphora winemaking, where the vessels were known as “qvevris.” The technique is still practiced throughout the country today. In fact, qvevri-winemaking is so integral to their culture that this winemaking technique has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

  Today, partially inspired by the popularity of Georgia’s qvevri-aged orange wine, winemakers in Old World countries that once used and abandoned the ancient practice are now using amphorae to bring their wines back to ancient roots. Others, including New World winemakers who have no history of using amphorae, such as Chile, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and the U.S., are also using the age-old method to make new and original wines. So far, the reviews have been positive. According to proponents, modern use of this technique allows for slow micro-oxygenation, naturally-controlled temperatures, pure expression of the fruit and softening of the acidity – or, if fired at a very high temperature, preservation of acidity.

  These benefits of fermenting and aging in amphora are due to the unique properties of the vessel, just as winemaking in oak barrels and stainless steel offer their own distinctive characteristics. Oak barrels are porous and allow exposure to oxygen but also contribute flavors from the wood’s tannins. Stainless steel tanks are hermetically sealed and provide an oxygen-free environment, resulting in fresh, crisp wines. Clay amphorae fall somewhere in the middle. Because clay is porous, the vessel allows oxygen exposure as wines age, which helps soften tannins and flavors. Also, since clay is a neutral material, the presence of oxygen enables wines to develop without imparting any additional flavors. In addition, clay is an excellent thermal conductor, which releases the heat from fermentation, so there is no need for temperature control, especially if the vessel is buried in the ground according to Georgian tradition. The wine evolves slowly, preserving the fresh and fruity aromas.

  In the early days of winemaking, amphora size was generally around 30 liters. Today, amphorae may range from 320 liters to 1600 liters. The winemaking process begins when the pressed must is placed into the amphora, which is then sealed. Fermentation is spontaneous due to the presence of indigenous yeast in the fruit. During fermentation, the curved nature of the pots creates a swirling motion that gently extracts flavors and some tannins from the grapes and forces solids to settle at the bottom, leaving a clear, bright wine. There is little or no need to filter. Natural tannins found in grape skins, pips and stalks provide a natural preservative, so adding sulfur is unnecessary.

  Amphorae are generally free-standing, but some winemakers bury their vessels according to Georgian customs. Fermentation and maturation times will vary depending on the winemaker’s goals. In Georgia, they leave the qvevri underground to ferment for at least five months before being decanted and bottled. According to some experts, fermentation in amphora can take longer, resulting in a higher extraction level. Wines aged in amphora tend to mature faster, too, because of the micro-oxygenation. Both red and white wines can be vinified in amphora, with whole grapes stemmed or destemmed.

  Amphora wines are especially popular among proponents of biodynamic winemaking, who prefer minimal intervention and a natural approach to viticulture and viniculture. Since these wines are unfiltered, the process appeals to fans of natural wine and winemaking. Also, the sustainability of the amphora, compared to wood or steel tanks, offers an environmentally and financially advantage: On average, wood barrels must be replaced every four to five years, but clay amphora can last decades, if not centuries.

  So how do these wines taste? Because the wines fermented and aged in amphora are exposed to more air, they have a deep, rich texture. The presence of oxygen also softens tannins and accelerates tertiary aromas of nuts, baked fruit and chocolate. Clay is a neutral container, so wines show less oxidation than their oak-aged counterparts. They also show less reduction than wines aged in stainless steel. Generally, tasters say wines have an elevated expression of fruit, open with a bright quality and close with a long and rich finish.

  While we are seeing a quiet revolution of fermenting and aging in amphora, there is no “one size fits all” to the containers because of regional and historical differences. The vessels come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Most are made with clay, including terracotta. Others may be made with sandstone and concrete, but they are usually not referred to as “amphora.” Traditionally, amphorae were hand-made, and most still are today, either by the winemakers themselves or through specific amphorae producers.

  The unifying thread is that these wines prioritize extended skin contact, regardless of the composition. In Georgia and Armenia — where amphorae-based wine production has its origins — the vessels are called “qvevri” and “karas,” respectively. The amphorae are large, egg-shaped pots and, for hygienic reasons, are lined with beeswax. Ancient Romans used a large oval clay vessel called a “dolium,” which had a large opening at the top and a rounded body attached to a flat or rounded bottom. The dolia, often six feet in height with a 2500-liter capacity, were kept underground with a constant temperature all year. The Spanish used a massive clay vessel called a “tinaja,” which tapers at the top and the bottom like an egg. Tinaja are used by some contemporary winemakers in La Mancha, Valdepeñas and Montilla-Moriles. In Portugal’s Alentejo region, many winemakers are reviving the country’s tradition of fermenting in amphorae called a “talha.” The talhas are massive and can produce 1000 liters of wine. The region even has the world’s only appellation dedicated to wines made in amphora, Vinho de Talha. Italians use the terms “anfore,” “orci” or “giare” for amphorae. Tuscany has been the center of clay vessel production for generations.

  The revival of amphorae is leading innovative producers to experiment with improvements in the vessels, specifically in the areas of oxygen transfer rates, porosity, effects of different firing temperatures, testing of elements released by amphorae, durability and ease of cleaning/improved sanitation, among other areas. Many of today’s amphorae are far from those used 6,000 years ago, with producers offering hermetically-sealed ceramic lids that minimize temperature fluctuations and add-ons such as doors, drain holes, valves and sample taps to facilitate fermenting, aging and cleaning. Some have produced vessels with varying porosity, within limits, due to high-temperature firing techniques, amphorae that limit contact with yeast by their design, and larger-sized amphorae that can maintain original reliability performance. It’s also possible to use vineyard soil in the clay to form an amphora with a local footprint.

  Today’s amphorae are not inexpensive: Generally, prices begin at around $3,000. A stainless steel tank starts at $1,000, and an oak barrel can range in price from $900 to $2,000, depending on whether it’s American or French Oak. Concrete tanks, which offer benefits similar to amphorae, may cost as much as $14,000 for a 470-gallon capacity vessel. While amphora and concrete represent a significant investment, those who use them say the benefits are worth the expense. Not only do the vessels last for decades, but they also yield competitive wines of all varieties.

  With amphorae technology continuing to evolve, winemakers considering vinification with this method should research their options seriously. First of all, confirm that the amphorae selected are specifically made for wine and have been tested and certified to ensure there is no risk of contamination. Potential buyers should also consider how much oxygen the wine needs, ease of sanitation and cleaning, thermal insulation properties, the safety of materials and durability of the vessel.

  Amphorae are taking us back to the future. Winemakers, who by nature are continually looking for innovative ways to produce wines, are embracing this old technology with enthusiasm. For them, opportunities with amphorae abound.

Springtime Expert Advice for Vineyard Wildlife Control

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Discussions about pest control in the vineyard often revolve around small insects that eat away at plants, but there are much larger animals that cause damage among the rows as well. Instead of chemical deterrents commonly used for small pests, wildlife control in the vineyard is often best pursued through fencing, traps, nets and certain plants that naturally deter problematic animals.

  In this article, industry experts from companies specializing in vineyard wildlife control weigh in on the best ways to keep animals away from your precious grapevines this spring season.

Vineyard Wildlife Problems and Solutions

  Many animals can create problems for vineyard owners, including deer, gophers, rabbits and mice. Other animals that commonly find their way to grapevines are voles, foxes, woodchucks and raccoons. However, one of the most significant wildlife issues affecting vineyards today is birds.

  Sutton Agricultural Enterprises is a Salinas, California-based company and pioneer in pest bird control and precision seed planting. Sutton is also a source for transplanters, harvesters, mulchers and custom farm equipment.

  Bob Sutton, General Manager at Sutton Agricultural, told The Grapevine Magazine that one of the keys to an effective wildlife control program is variety.

  “Using a single style of bird control will help achieve a level of control,” Sutton said. “Using two, three or four different methods will help the vineyard manager get to higher and higher levels of control.”

  Avian Enterprises also specializes in bird control and serves numerous industries, including agriculture, dairy barns, commercial, residential and airports. Based in Sylvan Lake, Michigan, it offers three bird repellent products to protect crops from pest birds.

  “Birds can be incredibly destructive to grape growing. From pecking holes to eating the grapes outright, grape-growers are constantly in battle with the birds. If mitigation measures aren’t taken early enough, the grape-grower runs a real risk of losing a significant portion of the grapes,” Avian’s President, Jon Stone, told The Grapevine Magazine,

  Established as a livestock fencing installation company in 1984, Trident Enterprises has a warehouse in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, stocked with high-quality fence materials for various industries. Trident’s Chris Shriver said that his company’s two best products for wildlife control for vineyards are an eight-foot-tall, PVC-coated welded wire fence with two-inch by four-inch mesh openings and a metal eight-foot fixed knot fence.

  “These products provide protection from any animal that wants to get in and snack on grapes, leaves and other crops,” Shriver said. “They are nearly invisible from past 20 feet, so you can maintain the natural look of your vineyard.”

Effective Wildlife Control Strategies

  Depending on a vineyard’s location and the types of wildlife in the area, fencing, traps, netting and certain plants can be placed around the grapes. Sutton said that some of the most commonly used bird control products are visual, such as reflective tape, decoy birds of prey and eye spot balloons. Sonic products include Zon propane cannons and pyrotechnics, while exclusion products are netting and spikes.

  “Each of the available bird-scaring classes, visual, sonic and exclusion, can be used together and separately to achieve a different effect and can also be used in different ways throughout the vineyard,” Sutton said. “An example of this is an area where power lines cross a portion of the vineyard. Zon propane cannons can be positioned to reduce damage in that specific area. Likewise, a hillside with mammals and bird habitats can also be the focus of a specific control. Bird control products are only a part of a program. The way they are managed is the other.”

  However, there are pros and cons to the various wildlife control strategies used in vineyards today. Any bird and wildlife control situation depends on balancing the damage, or potential damage, with cost. A vineyard could experience a 5% to 40% loss of fruit if no controls are put into place.

  “Knowing the history of the vineyard, weather conditions, and the overall environment of the vineyard are all factors that contribute to the amount of loss that will be incurred,” Sutton said. “The lower the expected loss, the lower the input cost. Visual bird control, at the low-cost end, may be enough to minimize damage. If history shows damage can be very high for a particular vineyard, the other end of the cost scale is netting, which can run as high as $800 per acre.”

  “We like to tell our customers that when it comes to protecting against the birds, every tool in your toolbox is the way to go,” said Stone from Avian. “That said, there are some strategies that work temporarily and then don’t seem to affect the birds going forward. Avian Control Bird Repellent, fortunately, is a product that birds cannot get used to; they can’t acclimate to it. It’s a constant annoyance for them, and if used early enough, it can ‘convince’ the whole flock to stay away for the season. The key is to start spraying it early before the ‘scout’ birds arrive.”

  Shriver from Trident Enterprises said that, in general, the pros of his company’s fencing are that it keeps deer and other animals out without compromising the look of the field.

  “Our fences are also harmless to animals, unlike how trapping and netting can sometimes be,” Shriver said. “There is nowhere for the animals to get caught or trapped, so it makes it a perfect wildlife deterrent for vineyards.”

  In addition to these control strategies, some vineyards experiment with placing certain plants around grapes to deter pest mammals and birds. For example, planting marigolds at the ends of grapevine rows deters rabbits. As a general rule, plants with a strong scent help discourage wildlife, including herbs used for cooking like sage, rosemary and oregano. Meanwhile, remove plants that pest animals love, such as tulips, lilies and azaleas.

  Shriver said that there are a lot of different plants you can use to deter deer, in particular.

  “You can plant lamb’s ear, marigolds, rosemary, asparagus, mint, fountain grass, lavender, sage, basil, lily of the valley and even sunflowers,” Shriver said. “Anything with spikey or fuzzy leaves will discourage deer. All of these options will help keep deer out and add a splash of color to any space.”

Wildlife Tips for the Spring Season

  When it comes to wildlife control, spring is unique because it is nesting season and the most likely time for pest birds, rodents and other wildlife to take up residence in and around a vineyard.

  “Migratory birds come and go, but birds who live in a particular area will need to find food and water sources throughout the year,” said Sutton. “Discouraging them in the spring may reduce populations in the area when the grapes become a target for a food source. Owl boxes are also a good example of a way to help control the gopher population year-round.”

  Shriver told The Grapevine Magazine about the importance of fortifying protection in the spring.

  “Everything is starting to bloom, which means more things for animals to eat,” Shriver said. “The best tip is to get some wildlife fencing. This is the most surefire way to protect a vineyard from the very hungry animals that are more active once the weather starts getting warmer. If you already have some sort of wildlife protection, it is important to make sure it is still secure by checking for holes and weak points and reinforcing anything that needs it.”

  When it comes to spraying, Stone recommends waiting a little longer.

  “Because the birds only seem to want the grapes around just the time before verasion, we recommend only using Avian Control Bird Repellent at that time or just before,” said Stone. “It doesn’t make sense from a strategic standpoint to spray any earlier.”

  Using some of these helpful tips, vineyards around the country can better handle their wildlife pest problems and enjoy more thriving grapes this season. Every wine-growing region is unique when it comes to wildlife protection. Fortunately, there are products and strategies available today to address potential issues before substantial damage occurs.

The Okanagan: British Columbia’s Vine Valley

By: Tod Stewart

Man, did I need this,” was the thought that went through my mind as I opened the blinds and took in the morning view from my luxurious suite at Spirit Ridge Resort. Under an azure, late fall sky, vineyards stretched down to the sun-sparkled cobalt surface of southern Osoyoos Lake, whose waters stretched towards the hills in the distance. Though late in November, the Okanagan Valley in the British Columbia interior was experiencing a glorious, prolonged fall, with temperatures in the mid-50s. As I’d been in a COVID-induced semi-lockdown seemingly forever, a chance to escape my Toronto condo was just what the doctor ordered (along with face masks, vaccines, tests, social distancing, and an “abundance of caution”).

  This was my second visit to Spirit Ridge. The first time was back in 2005 on my first trip to Brit-ish Columbia. At that time, the resort had yet to be fully completed (doors officially opened in 2006), but the evidence of what was yet to come was apparent. Today, Spirit Ridge offers a range of stunning accommodations, activities, fine dining and the Indigenous-owned Nk’Mip (In-ka-meep) Cellars winery mere steps away. It also serves as the perfect base for exploring the numerous wineries that pepper the landscape, from the town of Osoyoos in the south to Salm-on Arm in the north.

  This time, what brought me to the Okanagan was an invitation to visit the stunning Phantom Creek Estates winery, tour the facility, taste some wines, and dine in its acclaimed restaurant. While there, I could also spend some of my own time checking out a few other establishments in the area.

  Nestled between the Cascade and Columbia mountain ranges and meandering on a roughly north to south tack for some 124 miles, the Okanagan Valley was forged by glacial activity about 10,000 years ago. The landscape is as rugged as it is beautiful. I’ve toured a few wine regions in my travels, and, as far as scenery goes, the Okanagan ranks up there with the best of them. Though undoubtedly appreciative of their daily view, Winemakers in the area face a few challenges – some familiar, some not so much.

  To begin with, there’s the climate. To call it extreme would be an understatement. For example, the summer of 2021 saw temperatures in south Okanagan hit upwards of 120 degrees Fahren-heit. In the midst of this was a twelve-day stretch where some vineyards experienced tempera-tures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 12 hours each day. Come January, the mer-cury plummeted to a bone-chilling -13 degrees Fahrenheit.

  The region is also very dry. The southern part of the valley – where I was stationed – is Cana-da’s only desert and the second driest climate in the country outside of the Arctic. Irrigation in the vineyards is a must. A bit of a pain, but not something to stop dedicated vineyard manag-ers. What could stop a dedicated vineyard manager is some of the local wildlife.

  If, as a winemaker, you think birds are a problem, tending vineyards in the Okanagan could prove to be somewhat unnerving. Bears, cougars, wolves, rattlesnakes and Black Widow spi-ders are all present to varying degrees and can be more than a tad annoying. With their insa-tiable appetite for ripe berries, the bears will gladly decimate row after row of vines (and are probably indifferent to the nuances of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). This can have some unfortunate economic consequences for a vineyard owner. Still, there’s not much that can be done outside of letting them have their fill, given that they can also decimate those interfering with their dinner. Encounters with the other beasties are rare but not unheard of. As an aside, I asked a local Bordeaux-trained winemaker if he faced similar challenges from wildlife while working in France. “Well, there were French people,” he said.

  If you can deal with these challenges, the south Okanagan is, by all accounts, a truly remarka-ble place to craft world-class wines.

  Vancouver-based businessman Richter Bai, whose background involved mining in China, thought so, too. He saw the south Okanagan as the perfect place to craft the Bordeaux-inspired blends that he personally favored. And so, armed with nothing more than a dream and about $100 million (Canadian, I’ll assume), Bai secured some prime wine-growing real estate and set to work.

  Fortunately, the land he bought came with a trifecta of highly-acclaimed vineyards: Phantom Creek Vineyard, planted in 1996; Becker Vineyard, planted in 1977; and the Kobau Vineyard, planted in 2005. The Evernden Springs vineyard – planted after Bai’s purchase – in the neigh-boring Similkameen Valley added a fourth vineyard to the estate’s holdings. The region’s dry climate ensured that utilizing organic and biodynamic vineyard practices was more than doa-ble. To alleviate any possible hiccups along the way to organic and biodynamic certification, the talents of Olivier Humbrecht were enlisted. Humbrecht, owner and winemaker at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, was brought on as Consulting Winemaker. France’s first Master of Wine, Humbrecht is known as a leading proponent of biodynamic winemaking.

  The 78,884 square foot winery Bai built has a 35,000 case capacity and is at once a showcase for art, architecture, gastronomy and, of course, wine. It sports a 500-seat amphitheater, a first-class restaurant, and numerous objets d’art, including a Dale Chihuly-designed chandelier hanging over the Founder’s Cellar tasting table.

  I was shown around the place by the very hospitable Andrew Young, Phantom Creek’s Hospi-tality Manager. He also took me through a thorough tasting of the winery’s vinous treasures. The Bordeaux blends and house cuvées (that often saw both Bordeaux and Rhone varieties in the mix) certainly displayed both power and elegance, as well as complexity, as did a very solid Syrah. The whites – including Riesling, Pinot Gris and Viognier – were immaculately balanced and varietally true to character. Even the Viognier, a grape that tends to veer off into blowsi-ness in the wrong hands, was elegant and restrained.

  An additional benefit when visiting Phantom Creek is partaking in some of the winery’s other assets, of which there are plenty.

  Over a superb, multi-course dinner at the winery’s on-site restaurant, creatively prepared by Chef Alessa Valdez, I was poured a number of additional Phantom Creek wines that married perfectly with the various dishes. Poached Lingcod with crispy grilled saffron polenta, grilled green cabbage, ‘nduja beurre blanc, and almond gremolata…O.M.G. And things were just get-ting started.

  It was a bit of a change of pace going from the opulent lavishness of Phantom Creek Estates to the elevated vineyards of Osoyoos Larose. I admired the view of the Okanagan Valley stretched out about 1,300 feet below me as I looked over the nearly 80 acres of vines. I was in the vineyard because it wasn’t possible to visit the winery, mainly because, at the time of visit-ing, Osoyoos Larose didn’t have a winery.

  Since its inception in 1998, the estate has availed itself of various “borrowed” facilities. This should be changing over the next couple of years as a permanent production home has finally been secured. Yet, despite what many might see as a definite setback, Osoyoos Larose has managed – vintage after vintage – to craft red wines based on the classic Bordeaux blend that have been hailed by connoisseurs and critics as among the best in Canada.

  Owned by France’s Groupe Taillan (owner of Chateau Gruaud-Larose in Saint-Julien, among others), Osoyoos Larose, like most Bordeaux estates, makes but two wines (both red); its Le Grand Vin flagship, and Pétales d’Osoyoos. However, the estate is in the process of planting white varietals for a Bordeaux-inspired white counterpart. About two and a half acres have been planted to date, with an additional 20 acres slated for planting next year. Until then, con-sumers will have to content themselves with the Osoyoos Larose reds. A vertical tasting of vin-tages 2009 through to 2018 went a long way in convincing me that there’s plenty with which to be content.

  It should be exciting times ahead for a winery that, without hype, without a huge advertising and promotional budget, and without even an actual winery, has managed to secure a top spot in the echelon of the world’s great wines.

  Before catching a morning flight back to Toronto, my final meal was at the whimsically named The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry restaurant at Spirit Ridge. The name derives from a story told by the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation describing the Four Food Chiefs, each representing above-ground animals, water-dwellers, underground edibles and above-ground plants. I settled on the Bring Me Hasenpfeffer, mostly because it sounded (and, in fact, was) delicious, and also because “hasenpfeffer” was a word etched into my brain since my Bugs Bunny cartoon days. It paired nicely with the ripe, densely-structured, slightly smoky Nk’Mip 2018 Syrah from the adjacent winery.

  For wine markers south of the border looking for stunning scenery, fantastic hospitality, and some pretty incredible wines, a visit to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley will prove to be en-tertaining, educational and eye-opening.

How is Your Crop Insurance?  

By: Trevor Troyer, VP, Agricultural Risk Management

How does your crop insurance policy work? What type of policy is Grape Crop Insurance? How much do you need to know? I mentioned a little about grape crop insurance in the last article in the Grape Vine. I am going to go into the policy information and how it is set up in this one.

  Grape crop insurance is an Actual Production History (APH) policy. This means it uses a vineyard’s historical production to determine how much is covered. Basically, you are covering an average of your tons per variety. Since crop insurance is subsidized the insurable varieties, prices per ton, premiums are set by the USDA. This also means that there is no difference from one insurance company to the next. If anyone represents that they can get you a lower premium for the same coverage, it is false.

  Your agent will work with you to set up individual databases for each variety. If you have vineyards in different locations, you can often times set them up separately. This can be good when you have a claim. You might have a loss in one location but not the other. You don’t want your production co-mingled, as you may not have a payable loss at that point.

  The databases can go back up to 10 years, if you have the production. Minimally 4 years is needed to set up an APH database. If the vines have just become insurable then a Transitional Yield (T-Yield), based on the county and variety, can be used to fill in up to three years. If you purchase a vineyard that has been producing you can transfer that production history. You must have records or some way to prove that history though. The database can only be set up as far as you have production records to prove the yields. Production records are not required at the time you sign up for crop insurance or at production or acreage reporting times. But it can come up during a claim or a review.

  Here’s what the 2022 Crop Insurance Handbook says about grape production records:

“Settlement sheets, sales receipts, machine harvest records, certified scale records, pick records and final or year-end statements from a winery, cannery or processor must indicate net paid tons of Grapes delivered by variety. Converting gallons of wine to tons of grapes does not qualify as acceptable records.”

  It is especially important to keep good records if the grower is “vertically integrated.” “A producer is vertically integrated when all stages of production of a crop, from acquisition of materials to the retailing or use of the final product, are controlled by one person, or by different persons that are related.”– CIH If the entity that owns the vineyard is a winery, then they would be vertically integrated. Even if they sell some of the grapes to other wineries. If you own a vineyard and are partners in a winery and you sell the grapes to that winery you could be vertically integrated as well.

  Let’s move on to insurability of the grapes. Vines need to be in their 4th growing season for the grapes to be insurable. A minimum of 4 years is needed to do the average, if the grapes have just become insurable then a T-Yield, as mentioned before, is used in place of any missing years.

  Usually, the third growing season after being grafted is considered insurable. The vines must have produced an average of at least two tons per acre in at least one of the three preceding crop years. There can be exceptions to this rule. Sometimes there are other requirements located in the “Special Provisions” for that particular county. In California the USDA Davis Regional Office (DRO) puts out Informational Memorandums that lay out specific requirements for the state of California. These differ from other growing regions in the US. You are able to make higher yield requests that can be approved by the DRO.

  Grape crop insurance is available in the following states; Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Crop insurance is not available for grapes in all counties in each state though. For a list of insurable counties, you can look at the RMA’s website at rma.usda.gov or contact your agent. Even though there may be differences between AVAs in a given county, the insurability, prices, premiums are set by county not AVA.

  Insurable varieties are also different between states and counties. The varieties are usually set by what has been being grown in that county or what a particular climate in a state/county allows for. Even if a particular variety is not listed it can be insured. There are Types/Practices for each county that list out specific varieties and also make allowance for others. For example, it may list Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and so on. If a particular variety is not listed it can be most often insured under “Other Varieties”, “Other White Varieties” or “Other Red/Pink Varieties.”

  Having a lot of varieties that are not specifically listed causes these different varieties to be lumped together in the database. This can cause problems if you have varieties that yield differently. But this is still better than not having any coverage at all. Any coverage is better than no coverage as can be attested by many growers in California a couple years ago during the wildfires.

  It may happen that your production is low in particular year. You might have had a claim paid or not, but what about your database and average going down? This isn’t good. You may elect an optional endorsement when you sign up called Yield Adjustment. “For APH yield calculation purposes, insureds may elect to substitute 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield for actual yields (does not apply to assigned and temporary yields) that are less than 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield to mitigate the effect of catastrophic year(s). Insureds may elect the APH YA and substitute 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield for low actual yields caused by drought, flood, or other natural disasters.” – 2022 Crop Insurance Handbook. This can make a big difference; you want your yields to stay up so that your average does. This makes it more likely to have a claim paid at the time of a loss.

  You cannot cover 100% of your average production. You can choose coverage levels from 50% to 85%. There is a built-in production deductible. Coverage levels are in 5% increments. Coverage levels are relative to premium, the lower the coverage the lower the premium, the more coverage you buy the higher the premium. What the correct coverage for your needs is something your crop insurance agent can help you with.

  If you would like more information on crop insurance, please feel free to contact me. We also offer free second opinions on grower’s existing policies. Sometimes we find mistakes or the policy is structured in a way, to cause claims to not be paid or reduced.

  Crop insurance is subsidized through the Federal Government. The USDA Risk Management Agency oversees crop insurance. The RMA’s website is www.rma.usda.gov.

For more information please contact…Trevor Troyer: VP Operations, Agricultural Risk Management, LLC. Call: (239) 810-0138

Soil Chemistry – It Really Is Rocket Science

By: Orest Protch

In a previous article (The Grapevine Magazine Nov/Dec 2021 issue) I touched on how water chemistry is rocket science. And now I am suggesting that soil testing is in a similar category. So, what does this mean to a vineyard?

  Every part of a vine can be sent to commercial or university labs for in-depth analysis. You can get reports covering everything from the robustness of the microbes that thrive on the root hairs to the gas expired by the leaves. To get the gas you simply put a branch into an airtight plastic gas sample bag.

  Very few labs can do all types of analysis well. It just does not work that way. So, shop around and meet with various lab account managers. Consider them your long-term partners. At my previous employment before retiring as the senior laboratory technologist for an oil company, I used a combination of over ten different commercial and university labs, each for specific tests even though most could do them all. I continuously re-evaluated their accuracy, precision, and repeatability in doing my required analysis by sending both duplicate samples and spiked sampled.

  Also, consider joining with other vineyards to request similar test analysis since bulk samples mean reduced costs. It takes a commercial lab time to set up to run specific tests and the more samples of a similar type that they can push through, the less their overhead cost per sample. Vineyards are all in a friendly competition for customers and this works since no two wines are the same. So, take advantage of bulk sample shipments to save money.

  Soil testing is simply one of many available analytical tools to try and ensure a quality grape every season that allows you to make the award-winning wine for which you are striving. This article is going to shed light on several factors that understanding soil chemistry may seem to be shrouded in darkness.

  Vineyards are one of the few places where crop rotation does not occur. In normal agricultural practices, this would deplete the harvest potential of a plant within just a few years without massive additions of fertilizers.

  On an incredibly positive note, vineyards are one of the few areas where the salmonella bacteria are not a permanent resident in the soil and therefore transferred to the growing crops and fruits. At any given time, one can culture the bacteria on most produce and vegetables found in grocery stores. But be very selective where you buy any soil enhancers. Most vineyards in my area burn their fall time clippings to prevent cross-contamination. The valley fills with smoke every fall.

  Grape vines rely on their root systems burrowing deeper into the soil as they mature to reach new sources of essential nutrients, but this does reach a maximum depth in a relatively brief time. Unless vineyards add copious quantities of fertilizers, which for in the field is a marketing no-no, the vines mostly rely on the water they receive from rainfall and irrigation to get what they need to sustain grape growth.

  When it rains or when you use irrigation, the water does not move only downwards strictly by gravity. There are hydraulic and other forces working on a single drop of water, and the bottom line is that water moves in all directions in the ground.

  Below the ground, water movement is not limited to the warm months. If the vineyards are in areas that experience cold winters, the topsoil still gets groundwater infiltration even in freezing temperatures.

Factors that affect groundwater movement:

•    Capillarity action.

•    Coefficient of permeability.

•    Gravity.

•    Ground permeability.

•    Ground topography.

•    Hydraulic gradient forces. (static head)

•    Molecular attraction between soil and water.

•    Rock porosity.

•    Water surface tension.

  Relax, we are not going to be delving into calculus and quantum physics to describe what is going on under the ground. There is no test at the end of this article.

  The smaller the soil particles, the greater the surface area per unit mass of soil. The large surface area of clay and its mineral composition make it the storage depot of soil nutrients. Soils with more clay have more nutrients than sandy soils. Clay particles have about 1,000 times as much external surface area as the particles in an equal weight of sand. (Figure 2)

Figure 1: Soil classification system. Grains of soil have vastly more surface area than their volume suggests.

  The effect of particle size on surface area as demonstration with a deck of cards: Stacked together, the deck has only twenty-five square inches of surface area. When separated as individual cards, the deck has a surface area of approximately 1,000 square inches. The spread-out cards represent the pores in soil granules.

  The soil is dried, run through a sieve shaker that separates the grains according to diameter using stacked sieves with different sized mesh screens, and then viewed through a microscope. 

  Sieve shakers separate soil grains according to their diameters and piled from largest mesh screen on top to the smallest mesh size on bottom. The author recommends that all vineyards have a shaker and stereo microscope with camera attachment.

  Dried soil sieve analysis can indicate soil degradation over the years if samples taken from the same location.

Figure 2: Soil sieve analysis can indicate soil degradation over the years. The author did hundreds of sieve analysis tests and created this chart.

  The soil grain porosity and permeability of the soil controls the rate of movement of groundwater through it. And how chemical elements such as iron and phosphorous move with the water.

  To illustrate this, imagine a hundred people standing on a soccer field spaced evenly apart on the field. There are two other lines of people at both ends of the field with one side constantly throwing balls to those that are on the field. Now, you divide all one hundred people into two teams, one team is throwing and catching yellow balls and the other team is throwing purple balls. Both teams want to get their balls from one end of the field to the other.

  However, one team has more balls than the other and the other team can catch and throw them slower than the other team. Eventually both teams will get their balls to the other end of the soccer field, but one team will get their balls there faster. Now think of the balls as chemical molecules.

  The people on the field are like the soil or rock granules making up the ground below us. As the different chemicals move with the groundwater, they released by the soil particles making up the ground below us. These are chemical bonding sites inside all the pores and crevices. For those that are familiar with laboratory equipment such as gas or liquid chromatographs, this is also how these instruments work and measure the chemicals in samples run through them.

  Blocking the movement of water and chemical compounds are immovable gas voids and water bubbles caught in the matrix of gas/air. This is a problem with well compacted vineyard soils after multiple years of use.

Figure #3: Chemicals in soil caught and released by chemical bonding sites of the soil grains. The different chemicals move through the ground at different speeds, but they all do move with the groundwater flow. Different chemicals simply move through the ground faster than others and are locked up forever in soil grain pores and stop moving and are not available to the root system.

Figure 4: Unmovable soil gas/air pockets may act as barriers to the movement of water and nutrients. This is a problem with well compacted vineyard soils after many years of continued use.

  Not only should vineyards be taking close-up photos of leaves and grapes throughout the growing season on specific plants, but microscope apps for laptops are an indispensable tool for them also. Digging holes in one spot along a vine row through the years can show changes in soil compaction and organic material.

  Another tool that the author used frequently for determining an estimate of soil organic matter was a simple small hand torch. The sample was dried, weighed, burnt with the torch flame, and then reweighed again. It was a surprisingly accurate method since a muffle oven was not available.

  The soil, leaves and grapes are sent by the vineyard for XRD analysis (X-ray Defraction), and this analysis usually comes with bonus electron scanning microscope analysis, depending on the lab used. It gives a comprehensive break down of the constituents.

  Soil analysis can be as simple or complicated as you want. It all depends on what value you place on analysis results that may help you produce award winning wines year after year. There are a multitude of labs both university-based and commercially available to you. Make the lab account managers your partners for the long haul.

  Tests should not be single once-a-year snapshots but conducted consistently 3-4 times a year to get a baseline as to what your vineyard has in its arsenal. Analysis costs money. Do not treat it like throwing darts at a dartboard. It is more than that. Treat them like life saving medical checkups. The next article in the series will be on in-house lab testing nuances and best practices.

Choosing the Best Bird Control for Your Vineyard

By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension

Good bird control measures are expensive. They are also a key part of growing grapes anywhere birds are found.

  Last year during a site visit, a grower told me they would be forgoing bird control because of the time and labor it takes. Instead of giving up on bird control, I encouraged them to find a solution that worked better for their business than their current methods. That conversation inspired me to develop a bird control guide to help growers find strategies that work for them.

I dug into the research on bird control to find out which methods have had the most success in vineyards. Among the 10 or so bird control tools out there, some are much more effective than others.

Netting Remains the Most Effective Bird Control Technique

  No surprise here. According to comparative research studies in vineyards, bird netting is still the most effective bird management tool. When used correctly, growers can expect 90-100% bird control with netting. For example, a 2007 study in California found 97.8% control compared to uncovered vines.

  There is a reason that netting works best. Netting offers nearly equal opportunity exclusion of birds regardless of the species simply by keeping them out. Birds cannot adapt to physical exclusion like they can with behavior-based deterrents like cannons, predatory calls, and visual threats, which I will discuss shortly.

  The downsides of netting are the high upfront cost and time required to apply and remove it. However, growers will have an easier time with netting by following these tips:

1.  Use netting with holes 3/4 inch wide or smaller so that birds cannot sneak through it.

2.  Invest in a net applicator implement (e.g. Netter Getter or similar) for applying and removing nets. They drastically decrease labor costs and fatigue.

3.  Do not stretch out the net. For high cordon trellised vines, just drape the net loosely over the vines. Growers often tend to pull it tightly and snugly, but this actually stretches and expands the holes, making it easier for birds to peck through them. Keeping it loose actually protects the berries better.

4.  On high cordon vines, use netting that is wide enough to reach the ground on both sides of the row. You can use zip ties to pin the bottoms of the net together so it doesn’t blow away.

5.  Finish all skirting, hedging, or other canopy management before applying nets.

6.  Keep up your spray program once the net is on; netting does not stop spray droplet from reaching the vines.

7.  Remove all jewelry before handling netting!

Sound-based Deterrents

  Some growers prefer to use “behavior-based” sound deterrents: propane scare cannons, and speakers that play predator calls and bird distress calls. Controlled vineyard trials have found that these work well, but not quite as well as netting.

  It is hard to predict how well sound-based deterrents will work in a specific vineyard, because their effectiveness depends on the bird species and how they are used. They are designed to trigger fear responses in the birds, which works better for some species than others. They remain effective for anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks, until the birds realize they present no real threat.

  However, sound deterrents can work moderately to very well if used properly. They also work best in areas with moderate or smaller bird populations.

  The best thing you can do to improve success with sound makers is to move them around. Change their location and time intervals frequently before the birds become accustomed to them. The biggest mistake growers make is to keep them stationary.

Here Are Some Other Key Tips:

•    Since most bird species get used to sound deterrents within 2-6 weeks, wait to set them up until after veraison or until you notice bird activity in the vineyard.

•    Move the equipment throughout the vineyard at least 1 time per week.

•    Program your equipment to have variable time intervals between calls or blasts. Cannon blasts should vary between every 3-10 minutes.

•    Turn on the sound machines at sunrise and turn them off at sunset.

•    Observe local noise ordinances. Avoid using cannons at wineries when customers are present.

What Doesn’t Work for Birds?

  Based on current field research, visual deterrents like balloons and ribbons are far less effective than either netting or sound deterrents. A 2007 study in the Carneros AVA in California found that vineyards using visual deterrents alone had 13% bird damage, compared to only 2.3% damage when netting was used. In a 2018 study, even inflatable tubemen – like the tall inflatables at car dealerships – failed to significantly decrease bird damage.

  Visuals may help when used in combination with other more effective methods, and in areas with few birds. Like the sound deterrents, they work better when moved throughout the vineyard weekly rather than kept in one spot.

  Additionally, methyl anthranilate sprays have not been found effective in controlled, published trials. Methyl anthranilate is artificial grape flavoring which is considered distasteful to birds. However, it does not seem to work in practice. The three studies I found, one as recent as 2018, suggested little to no benefit of methyl anthranilate sprays in vineyards – vines that were sprayed with methyl anthranilate had similar bird damage to the unsprayed vines. I suspect that if this chemical were effective, it would be quite popular by now.

Bird Control Lasers

  Bird control lasers are beginning to emerge in some grape-growing regions and are sparking growers’ interest across the US. They emit lasers throughout the vineyard to scare birds without harming any wildlife.

  I look forward to seeing how well lasers work for vineyards. Existing systems have not yet been thoroughly tested by objective in-field research, and we cannot say how effective they are until more research is done. For example, we need to learn how long they remain effective and which species they control best. Right now, lasers may be best suited for growers willing to experiment and able to afford the upfront cost.

  My main take from all of this is: Netting is still the most effective bird control method, and you can make it easier by following a few key tips. If you have sworn off netting, investigate sound-based deterrents next. Alter their location and frequency for best results. Don’t count too hard on visual deterrents or sprays, which are unlikely to give adequate bird control.

  To read more analysis of bird control methods, download Comparing Bird Control Methods for Vineyards and Berry Farms from University of Minnesota Extension.

Luxury Brands Up Their Marketing Game

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

Coco Chanel once said, “The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.” The mistress of iconic fashion couldn’t have stated it more succinctly. Luxury today, as it was in Coco’s time, is not essential but continues to be highly desirable and prestigious because of the quality, price, and prestige it confers on its consumers.

  However, when it comes to marketing, luxury brands are like any other brand. They market themselves to those who can afford to buy them and those who aspire to own something, anything, created by them. Like all brands, they battle for share of mind and wallet.

93% of Consumer Engagement with Luxury Brands Occurs on Instagram (Source: Digimind)

  COVID accelerated a trend already in the making – the economy saw a massive shift to eCommerce, and marketing shifted accordingly to digital platforms. Not surprisingly, luxury fashion, jewelry, cars, and retail brands were the first to commit to social media. They immediately recognized that absent the ability to go to a store, the stories and images shared in the new virtual market will make up the building blocks of a brand’s image and equity. And these touchpoints, albeit digital, make for real and tangible engagement, interest, loyalty, and connections with their audience online, particularly on Instagram.

The Face of Affluence Is Changing

  Affluent consumers are no longer just Baby Boomers and Generation X. Wealth is now multi-generational as large numbers of Millennials and Gen Z are prosperous and buy luxury goods. By 2025, Millennials and Gen Z will make up 50% of the total luxury market. Their spending habits will define and redefine what luxury goods and experiences will be in demand.

What We Do Know Is:

•   Quality, prestige, brand reputation, plus a brand’s social values will drive luxury purchase decisions.

•   They will look to social media, influencers, and reviews for confirmation of their brand choice.

•   They will expect to be able to find the luxury brand they choose online and on Instagram.

  As with any consumer audience, identifying demographics is only the first step. In their recent book “Luxury Wine Marketing: The Art and Science of Luxury Wine Branding,” Peter Yeung’s and Dr. Liz Thach’s research identifies four categories of luxury wine buyers: The aspirational buyer, the luxury buyer, the wine collector, and the wine geek. Each persona has its price points, brand loyalty, and trusted referral sources. A wine collector will listen to critics and other wine collectors, while celebrities and influencers might influence an aspirational buyer. Understanding your target and the segment(s) your wine resonates with is the key to success in this evolving landscape.

New School Marketing Tools for Old School Brands

  A recent Social Media Industry Report on Luxury Brands by NetBase Quid digests and synthesizes the kind of social interactions driving authentic engagement and brand passion and how luxury brands are capitalizing (or not) on these experiences to drive consumers to do business with them. The report is a deep dive into the detail of several luxury brand’s social presences. While not everything in the report applies to wine, what is apparent from the research is that digital advertising, social media engagement, search engine optimization, and influencer marketing are now a staple for what could be called “old school luxury brands” like Hermes, Chanel, Burberry, LV, Ferrari, Jaguar, Gucci, Chopard, Cartier, Neiman Marcus, and Harry Winston.

  So the next time you think that you’re too “unobtainable” to be on social media, luxury wines should take heed. The marketing tool kit has forever expanded to include digital channels, not by luxury brands themselves, but by today’s affluent consumers. The consumer desire to have access to everything right now and the desire to buy into luxury brands are successfully forcing luxury marketers to straddle the fine line of relevance and exclusivity.

  Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California.  For more information please visit…www.wineglassmarketing.com