Viticulture in Argentina & Chile from a Plant Pathologist Perspective

By: Judit Monis, Ph.D.

This year I was invited to speak at different events organized by the Chilean Nursery Association (AGV) and Wines of Chile. While in Chile, I attended the 19th Congress of the International Council for the study of virus and virus-like diseases of the grapevine (ICVG). The ICVG meeting was held and hosted in Viña Santa Carolina Winery facilities near Santiago.  While I was traveling in South America, I had an opportunity to visit vineyards in Argentina and Chile.  Today I will share information I learned about winegrowing in Argentina and Chile.  As you know my interests are in grapevine diseases, how to prevent disease development and spread in the vineyard.   So, it will not be surprising that this article will focus on vine diseases.

Grapevine Diseases Originate Where Vitis Species Originate

It is easy to guess that grapevine pathogens (disease causing agents) originated at the same place where Vitis (the grapevine genus) species originated.  These disease agents (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) were introduced to other places in the world with the propagation and planting material.  Specifically, the varieties and clones that are grown in vineyards belong to the Vitis vinifera species (of Eastern European and Asian origin) while the rootstocks grown commercially belong to American Vitis species.  When grape cultivation started countries were not set up with quarantine programs, neither modern diagnostic tools we use today (PCR, ELISA, etc.) to detect pathogens were available.  Consequently, since the early days of grapevine cultivation European and American grapevine pathogens have been moving from one site to another for many generations.

Argentine and Chilean Grape growing Regions are Strikingly Different

  Being from Argentina, I frequently visit vineyards and wineries in South America.  Argentina ‘s viticulture is very different from what I am used to in California growing regions.  Most of the vineyards in Argentina have planted vines on their own roots (i.e., not grafted onto a rootstock) as the philoxera pest is not commonly found in Argentine grape growing areas.     Besides providing protection from philoxera, rootstocks confer resistance to nematodes, salinity, and can control the vigor of the vines in the vineyard.   Consequently, more vineyards in Argentina are being planted with grafted vines, especially in Mendoza’s newer and more sophisticated growing regions (Valle de Uco).   In contrast, the vineyards in Chile are very similar to the ones I visit in California and strikingly different from those in Argentina.   The majority of the vines in vineyards are grafted and trained in a similar fashion to Californian vineyards. The Andes Mountains that divides Argentina from Chile influences the climatic conditions of each of the countries.  Therefore, the rainy seasons, availability of water and stresses present in each winegrowing area are very different.

Grapevine Diseases are Found Wherever Grapevines are Grown

When it comes to diseases Argentine and Chilean viticulture is not different from other growing areas.   As I mentioned earlier, common diseases caused by Leafroll viruses, Vitiviruses, Fanleaf, Agrobacterium, and fungal trunk diseases must have arrived on site when plant material was imported.  These are important diseases that affect both grape quality, yield, and longevity of the vineyards.  In Chile and Argentina, I have witnessed the presence of Syrah Decline, a disorder that affects both grafted and not grafted plants.  At the ICVG meeting, Joshua Pucket from UC Davis Foundation Plant Services reported that Syrah Decline symptoms are linked to genetic markers present in certain Syrah and Shiraz clones.   Interestingly, when symptomatic Syrah selections were subjected to the meristem tissue culture technique used to eliminate known viruses and viroids, the symptoms persisted, suggesting that Syrah Decline is not caused by any of these infecting agents.  Research in France support these findings as symptoms are restricted to certain grapevine genotypes.  The news that Syrah Decline is a genetic rather than pathologic disorder will help growers prevent planting certain genotypes to avoid loss of production.   It is expected that we will learn more about this disorder as more research is published on this topic.  To date, surveys in both Argentine and Chilean vineyards were not able to detect Grapevine red blotch virus (GRBV).  The most likely reason for the lack of GRBV in Argentina and Chile is that these countries have historically imported grapevines from Europe and the virus so far has not been reported in EU vineyards.

None of these South American Countries have a Grapevine Clean Planting Certification Program

Grape growers and winemakers are aware of the detrimental effect of grapevine pathogens and would prefer to purchase and plant certified grapevines. Unfortunately, neither Argentina or Chile have a current certification program.  In other words, certified pathogen free vines (scion or rootstock varieties) are not available.  This is not completely true, as I learned that Argentina has one certified Malbec clone available. However, there is no use of having a certified scion if it is to be grafted onto a non-certified rootstock.  Consequently, most nurseries and growers are grafting non-certified scion and rootstock varieties.  In Argentine the grapevine certification program is going through administrative revision.  The current law requires that all mother plants are tested every year using the woody indexing method.  However, this is not practical as the results of this test are obtained two years after starting the index. The proposed changes include the application of molecular (PCR, ELISA) instead of biological testing (index) to detect viruses in the foundation and nursery increase blocks.  In Chile, supported by public funding a virus tested germplasm collection is being preserved.  It is expected that the material will become available to interested nurseries that could multiply and distribute the material for planting new healthy vineyards.

In both countries, the available planting material produced at the nurseries is not sufficient to fulfill the demand of the industry.  Therefore, grafted vines can also be imported from “approved” nurseries primarily from Europe (France and Italy) and must pass the government quarantine and sanitation requirements.  Generally, quarantine is done at facilities owned by the importing party as neither SENASA or SAG, the National sanitary authorities in each of the countries have the space to complete the quarantine in their facilities.

It is my hope that, with time, future changes will include the availability of certified pathogen free tested and true-to-type scion and rootstock planting material.  Only with clean planting grapevine material these important wine grape growing areas will see an improvement of the health and longevity of their vineyards.

  Judit Monis, Ph.D. provides specialized services to help growers, vineyard managers, and nursery personnel avoid the propagation and transmission of disease caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses in their vineyard blocks.   Judit (based in California) is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in all wine grape growing regions of the word.  Please visit juditmonis.com for information or contact juditmonis@yahoo.com to request a consulting session at your vineyard.

Priming Your Irrigation Systems for the Season (Part 1)

By: Tracey L. Kelley

Irrigation system maintenance is a vast topic of discussion—so much so, to do this article, we needed a team of experts to address it—in two parts. Mark Hewitt, the district sales manager for the ag products division of Rain Bird Corporation in Azusa, California, put it this way: “These are huge topics! People write books about these subjects! 1,500 words? Good luck!”  Yet we understand it’s essential to initiate an open forum periodically to ask about research, various applications or innovations that might help keep your system—and the entire growing season—flowing smoothly.

In the first part of this story, the experts provide tips for what you may need to know immediately to start operations and remedy any issues. In the July-August issue of The Grapevine Magazine, we’ll feature further concepts and suggestions from our experts.

In addition to Hewitt, other people extending their knowledge include:

  • Guy Fipps, Ph.D., P.E., professor and extension specialist of irrigation and water management at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; in collaboration with Charles Swanson, extension program specialist, Texas A&M University
  • Jacob Hernandez, CCA, owner, JH Ag Consulting, Santa Margarita, California; in collaboration with James Anshutz, AGH20, irrigation engineer with Netafim USA in Fresno, California; and the Cal Poly SLO Irrigation Training and Resource Center, San Luis Obispo, California
  • Steve Purvins, owner, The Vineyard at Lawton Hall in Bushwood, Maryland, which produces Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin grapes

Let’s Get It Up and Running

Regionality, post-harvest vine vigor, and winter precipitation are all factors determining whether a vineyard irrigation system gets shut down off-season. Some growers close it all off, while others use irrigation intermittently, but still need to check various components. A few growers know by late March if their vines have delayed spring growth due to insufficient water during colder months, and can only plan for next year to enable better health with a post-harvest irrigation plan.  For the majority of producers, it’s time for a spring tune-up. De-winterizing a system follows numerous steps.

  Fipps started the process with the basics:

  1. If the irrigation system was idle all winter, the system should be inspected for any damage that could have occurred. Turn each station on for a cycle and visually inspect each for visible tears or leak in the tubing, as well as dry areas from clogged drip emitters.
  2. While running, also check the pressures and flow rates—if pressure gauges and flow meters are installed—to ensure they correspond to system requirements.
  3. It’s also recommended to flush each drip line for a short period to remove any sediment or biologicals like algae that could have accumulated. Flushing the lines can help reduce problems during the irrigation season.

Fipps added, “All drip filters should be removed and properly cleaned before start-up. If any filter is damaged or unable to be cleaned, it should be replaced. Additionally, for automatically controlled systems, make sure all valves are opening and closing correctly. Valve solenoids and diaphragms can become damaged over time, requiring maintenance or repair.”

Hernandez provided a detailed four-part checklist:

  1. Pump station hardware: start system and make a note of any leaks from broken pipes, couplers and other fittings. Repair and replace as necessary. Exercise manual and automated valves. Clean air vents and replace any damaged units. Check for proper pressure settings of any pressure reducing or sustaining valves.
  2. Filtration systems: Remove screens and pressure wash to remove debris. Treat with a chemical solution to kill biological slimes, then clean and replace. Check sand media and refill and replace as needed. Sand media should have sharp edges—if rounded, replace. Check settings and function of automated backflush system, and make sure differential across filters is less than 10 psi. A properly-functioning filter station is one of the most critical components in maintaining uniformity of drip and micro-irrigation systems.
  3. Check your pump flow rates and pressure monitoring systems for each irrigation block or set. If you’re using a variable frequency drive (VFD), schedule an appointment to have the VFD serviced. Check settings and make adjustments as needed based on current conditions that may differ from when the VFD and pump station were installed. Check flow meters and pressure gauges for accuracy and calibrate or replace any damaged or unreadable gauges.
  4. While the pump is running, check the irrigation set perimeter to make sure all line ends are receiving water and re-attach any disconnected lines. Drive every line to check riser tee screens for debris and clean or remove and replace with plain washers. Check flow rates of emission devices and replace plugged or partially plugged devices as necessary. Check riser tees, couplers and hose ends for leaks, and replace or repair as needed.

“Review the previous season with your irrigation supervisors to understand the most common problems the irrigation team is dealing with,” Hernandez told The Grapevine Magazine. “Plan to fix the biggest issues in a systematic fashion. Often, a simple fix will open up a lot of time for your irrigators and enable them to spend more time on preventative maintenance instead of temporary fixes.”

  Hewitt also offered a multi-check process:

  1. For surface-mounted pump stations, check for leaks, broken or cracked pipes and damaged pressure gauges. Leaking packing glands or bearings need to be adjusted—usually tightened or replaced.
  2. Examine filter stations. Screens and disc filters need to be pulled and inspected for damage and wear. Media filter covers need to be pulled, and their sand checked for cleanliness and quantity. Add new sand if levels are low and also check backflow restrictor valves if sand levels are low. Clean control water filers, too.
  3. Water meters, if present, need to be pulled. Paddle or impeller types should be checked for freedom of movement and re-calibrated if needed.
  4. Clean site tubes, inspect gauges for freeze damage and accuracy and actuate backflush valves one at a time to ensure they open and close completely.
  5. All electric solenoids need to be checked to ensure they’re in good working order—no swelling of coils, plungers move freely, and plungers pull in when energized and deactivated by the controller.

When asked what issues managers sometimes encounter that Rain Bird representatives help them solve, Hewitt said, “We’re asked to troubleshoot everything from the water source to the figure eights at the end of the drip line laterals. [We help with] pumps, filters, controllers, valves, hoses and emitters. Filters are one of the most common problematic components of a low-volume system, especially if it’s over three years old,” he said. “Another common issue is plugged or low-flowing emission devices. Remember, no dripper will ever be as clean as it was when it came out of the factory!”

Purvins uses above-ground drip irrigation tubing suspended 8 inches high on a trellis wire and run down each vineyard row, spaced 8 feet apart. He has 0.5 gallons/hour emitters every 96 inches, and his system is supplied by a drilled well. Since he doesn’t irrigate during the winter, his startup is simple: “I have underground drain valves that I use to empty the lines before winter. I just check that all valves are closed in the spring before using the system.”

Handling System Damage Due to Excess Water

Northern California’s heavy rainfall in January and February caused some of the most problematic floodings in 20 years. Areas of the Midwest hit by “bomb cyclones” and significant snowfall melt triggered what scientists at the National Weather Service classified as “major to historic and catastrophic” floods. Some parts of the East Coast are still dealing with the effects of extensive rains and flooding from 2018. We asked our experts: how do these weather events affect vineyards and their irrigation systems?

“In Texas, where most vineyards use drip irrigation, flooding likely will do extensive damage to the drip irrigation system and possibly to pumps as well,” said Fipps.

Hewitt agreed. “This will be a new problem for growers with low-volume drip systems. Areas that were under floodwater this winter that have drip tubing with emitters will need to be very diligent during flushing after the flood waters recede—and some of these drip lines may not recover,” he told The Grapevine Magazine. “Excess water and debris could have entered into the exit bath areas of the driplines. If this material is allowed to dry and harden, most likely no amount of line pressure is going to clean this debris out of the emitter exit pathway.”

Hernandez added, “Flooding could damage infrastructure like pumping stations, pipes and laterals (drip hoses). Carefully inspect any affected equipment. Consider strategies for diverting water to prevent damage from future flooding episodes,” he said. “Additionally, my number one concern would be the impact of flooding events on my soil health. How much topsoil did I lose? What was deposited onto my field? Take soil samples at multiple depths throughout the field and start making necessary amendments as soon as possible.”

In part two of our irrigation system maintenance and upkeep article (Grapevine Magazine, July/Aug 2019), these experts share their views regarding ongoing system checks, typical problems often overlooked, monitoring water quality and critter control.

(Sources)

All listed above, plus:
Western Farm Press
https://www.farmprogress.com/grapes/post-harvest-irrigation-can-help-prevent-uneven-vine-growth-next-spring

Wine Enthusiast

Discover
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/imageo/2019/03/19/satellite-imagery-reveals-historic-midwest-flooding/#.XK4V1th7mCg

Did You Patent that Copyrighted Trademark? Um, No.

Brian D. Kaider, Esq.

Having worked in intellectual property for nearly 20 years, I often take for granted that people have a working knowledge of the different types of IP rights.  That misconception is frequently revealed when a friend or family member (with whom I’ve had many conversations about IP) asks, “didn’t you patent that company’s logo?”  “Well, no,” I explain, “but, I did get it federally registered as a trademark.”  Taking a step back, I realize that it can be quite confusing.  So, this article is meant to introduce the four main types of intellectual property and how they apply to the wine industry.

Patents Protect Ideas – Sort Of

Most people have a general understanding that a patent protects an “invention” or idea.  In a very general sense, that’s true.  But, while Congressional authority to grant patent rights comes directly from the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8), exactly what is patentable is the subject of tremendous confusion even among federal judges; sometimes requiring clarification from the U.S. Supreme Court.  The purpose behind patents is to encourage innovation by granting exclusive rights to one’s discoveries for a limited time.  In other words, it gives the patent holder a limited-term monopoly on his invention.  Generally, new machines, chemicals, electronics, methods of production, and in some cases, methods of doing business, are eligible for patent protection.

Ideas alone, however, are not patentable.  They must first be “reduced to practice,” meaning that either the inventor must have actually created the invention or have described it in sufficient detail that someone skilled in that area could follow the disclosure and create it themselves.  So, one can’t get a patent on a time machine, because (at least for now) no one has figured out how to defy the time-space continuum.  In addition, to be patentable, ideas must be novel, meaning that no one else has ever disclosed that idea before, and non-obvious, meaning that the idea cannot be an obvious variant on someone else’s invention.

Given that humans have been making wine for thousands of years, one might think that coming up with something novel in the winemaking process would be impossible.  Not so.  In preparation for this article, I ran a quick search of patents containing the word “wine” in the title and got 1184 hits.  Some recent examples include U.S. Patent No. 10,124,305 – “Agitation device for red wine production,” U.S. Patent No. 10,113,979 – “Systems, probes, and methods for dielectric testing of wine in bottle,”  and U.S. Patent No. 10,005,993 – “Combined wine fermenter and press.”  Improvements in any area of the wine industry may be patentable including: new types of bottles, decanters, closures, and caps; improved methods of separating grapes from stems; new processing equipment; improved testing procedures; improved packaging; etc.  Essentially, anything that lowers costs between the vine and the consumer, improves the quality of the wine, or enhances the consumer experience is worth considering for patent protection.

One word of caution, however; time is of the essence.  The America Invents Act of 2011, brought the U.S. in line with most other countries in being a “first to file” system, meaning if two people develop the same invention, the first to file for patent protection wins, regardless of who first came up with the idea.  Also, any public disclosure of your idea (such as a trade show) starts a 1-year clock to file or you may lose your eligibility for patent protection.

Copyrights Protect Creative Works

The authority for copyright protection stems from the same section of the U.S. Constitution as patent protection, discussed above.  Our founding fathers recognized the valuable contribution made to society by authors and artists and, therefore, sought to encourage creative expression by providing protection for artistic works.  Examples of copyrightable materials include, books, paintings, sculptures, musical compositions, and photographs.

Unlike inventive ideas, which are only protected when the government issues a patent to the inventor, copyrights attach at the moment the artistic work is “fixed” in a tangible medium.  So, for example, if a composer develops a new musical score in her head it isn’t protected, but the moment she translates that tune to notes on a page or computer screen, it becomes protected by copyright.  In order to enforce that copyright in court, however, it must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.  While it is possible to wait until an infringer comes along before filing for registration, doing so can severely limit the damages that may be available to the author of the creative work.  So, early registration is the better course.

In the wine industry, copyright issues often crop up with regard to who owns the artwork contained within a label or marketing material.  Generally, the author of a work owns the copyright.  But, if an employee of the winery, acting within the scope of their employment, creates an image that the winery owner incorporates into its labels, that picture is considered a “work made for hire” and is owned by the winery.  Where disputes often arise, however, is if the winery hires an outside artist or a branding agency to develop the artwork.  In that case, the winery should include language in its contract requiring assignment of all copyrights to the winery for the created artistic works.

Trademarks Protect “Source Identifiers”

People generally associate trademarks with the protection of a brand.  In more technical terms, what a trademark protects is a “source identifier.”  The purpose of trademark law is to protect consumers from being misled or mistaken as to the source of a product.  So, for example, if a consumer sees a pair of shoes with a certain famous “swoosh” image on the side, they should be reasonably able to assume that pair of shoes was manufactured by Nike, Inc. and was made with the same degree of workmanship and quality that they have come to expect from that company.  That “swoosh” symbol, therefore, acts as a source identifier to tell the public that the product was made by Nike, Inc.

What may function as a trademark can be quite broad, including: the name of the business (e.g., Sterling Vineyards®), a logo (e.g., the “swoosh”), a color (e.g., the Home Depot orange or the UPS brown), even a scent (e.g., Verizon owns a trademark on a “flowery musk scent” it pumps into its stores to help distinguish them from competitors’ environments).  However, slogans, words, and images that appear merely as decoration will not qualify for protection unless the applicant can demonstrate that the item has achieved “secondary meaning,” i.e., that the public has come to associate that item with the manufacturer.  For example, in the 1970’s McDonalds used the slogan, “You deserve a break today” in its commercials and other advertising.  People came to associate this phrase with McDonalds and in 1973 they were granted a trademark registration.

In general, marks also cannot be descriptive of the product or geographically descriptive of the source in order to be registered as a trademark.  For example, one could not obtain a registration for just the words “Red Wine.,” because it simply describes the product and does nothing to differentiate it from every other red wine on the market.  Similarly, an attempt in the year 2000 to register the name “Napa Valley Winery” was refused, because the applicant could not demonstrate that people had come to associate that name with its business as opposed to the hundreds of other wineries in Napa Valley.

Trade Secrets Protect Valuable Confidential Business Information

Unlike other forms of intellectual property, there is no registration system for trade secrets, because, by their very nature, they must be protected from all unnecessary disclosure.  Trade secrets can be just about anything that is confidential to your business and gives you a competitive advantage.  Some examples, include recipes, client lists, manufacturing processes, marketing plans, and client lists.

One of the most famous trade secrets is the formula for Coca-Cola, which has been kept secret for more than 130 years, sometimes through extraordinary measures.  In 1977, The Coca Cola Company withdrew its product from India, because in order to sell there, they would have had to disclose the formula to the government.  They decided it was more prudent to forego sales to one of the biggest populations on earth rather than risk disclosure of their secret recipe.

Protecting trade secrets requires constant vigilance in two ways.  First, the information should only be disseminated to people within the company, or outside consultants, who need the information in order to perform their duties for the company.  Second, those few people who are given access, should sign non-disclosure agreements with harsh penalties for breach of their duty of confidentiality.  Once the information gets out, it’s nearly impossible to un-ring that bell, so there must be severe financial consequences to someone who leaks the information.

Conclusion

While patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are four distinct forms of intellectual property and serve different functions, sometimes more than one form of IP can apply to the same item.  The business advantages and disadvantages of each form of IP should be weighed to determine the best course of action.  For example, a product’s life-cycle may have a lot to do with whether a company chooses to protect how the product works through patent or trade secret.  If the innovative feature relates to a cellular telephone device, patent protection is probably the best course, because by the time the patent expires and a competitor could use the technology, it will likely be obsolete.  Conversely, a novel process in fermenting wine may have value long after a patent would expire and would, therefore, be better suited to trade secret protection.  A knowledgeable intellectual property attorney, engaged early in the process, can help develop the most effective strategy to protect your valuable intangible assets.

Brian Kaider is a principal of KaiderLaw, an intellectual property law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry.  He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation.

bkaider@kaiderlaw.com

 (240) 308-8032

Is Your Facility Ready to Host Events?

By: Markel Insurance

As the spring season brings new life to the vineyards and offers opportunities of growth, so too are winery owners looking for new growth in their operations with increased sales.  Having a great experience at a winery results in improved customer loyalty, increased publicity and more sales.

One way to maximize your public exposure is by hosting events.   The activities can be small and simple such as an acoustic guitar on the back patio or larger concert exposures.   Events can include wine club dinners, fund raisers, vendor shows or weddings.

In planning for the events that will best suit your operations and facility, several key elements should be reviewed to help minimize losses and protect your assets.  Understanding your target market and what activities are best for you are as unique as each blend of wine.  Current markets have several popular events, including yoga stretch and sip; Wine Paint and Pour; Races through the vineyard or even a vendors “farmers market” offering local crafts and products.

There are the tried and true, more traditional activities expected at a winery with Crush or Harvest festivals, pickin’ party, club dinners and weddings/shower events.

You should consider the space needed based on the anticipated number of participants and any specialty needs, including tables & chairs or tents, rental equipment, caterer or DJ/vendors.

Once you have an idea on the type of event that will appeal to your demographics, a quick checklist can be reviewed.

Facilities Checklist for Hosting Events:

  • Is the use/occupancy rating for the property acceptable for the type of event?
  • Will you be able to provide adequate staffing for supervision?
  • Is there clear signage for acceptable vs restricted access areas?
  • Are there any ADA compliant concerns at the facility?
  • Based on the attendance expectations, will there be enough bathrooms, trash cans, water stations, shade/covered areas?
  • Are the electrical demands up to code? Who manages the setup and takedown for stage and dance floor exposures?
  • Is there emergency personnel on site?

Slip, Trips and Falls

Liability losses related to the facility most commonly relate to the slip, trip or fall category.  Not to underestimate the severity of what seems to be a simple loss cause, the following claim shows a good illustration of what can happen.

  Real-life claim example: A small concert event on a patio that required additional electrical power and resulted in cords running along the open patio.  A trip and fall occurred resulting in a fractured hip.  A surgery turned into an infection, causing a second surgery and extended recovery time.  With lost wages alone, the price was rising, and when finally settled to include medical, the shared cost was nearly $1.7 million.

Parking

Parking can be an often overlooked, but it is an important influence on the experience of the customer because it can be the first and last impression for any event.

Parking Factors to Consider

  • Is there adequate parking based on the number of attendees and is it easily accessible?
  • Always consider the path for emergency vehicle access (fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances).
  • Should local authorities be notified of the event and to help route the traffic flow in and out of facility.
  • Make sure the parking lot is clear of debris and free of obstacles with clear walking areas outside of traffic pattern.
  • Verify all areas of the parking log are well-lit for evening use and not susceptible to rain or vehicle being stuck.
  • Have clearly marked flow patterns and parking lanes help eliminate confusion and frustration.
  • Determine if you will have attendees directing traffic, or will be offering valet parking or any shuttle/transportation.

  Real-life claim example: Parking mishaps may leave you exhausted, or exhaust-less.  A vineyard/winery cleared a small lot to have as overflow parking for their outdoor event.  A small tree stump remained and although not a concern for the tractor or owners pickup truck, was not concealed enough to avoid damaging the exhaust systems of several customers that parked in the field lot.

Security

Depending on the size of the event, the responsibilities of the host grows with increased attendance.  When managing crowd control, do you rely on winery staff or opt for hired security.  Are there any weapons carried by other than law enforcement?  Do you hire off duty local law enforcement or an independent contractor.  Rules and procedure should  be clear relating to checking coolers and bags; not allowing any outside liquor; and restricted areas, especially where there is an attractive hazard, i.e. – open barns, fire pit, swimming pool/fountain/pond.  As an aside on fire, any open flame, fire pits, bon fires, outdoor grills, burgers and s’more’s cooker should be reviewed to make sure there are proper barriers, clear space and storage of combustibles.

Contracts and Certificates

Contracts and certificates should be in place for all vendors, caterers, artist, or instructors.  Each certificate of insurance should be from an  A rated or higher admitted carrier with limits equal to or greater than your limits, naming you as an additional insured, owner of premises.

Pets

People love their pets and pet lovers typically believe that everyone else should also be a pet lover, especially their pet.  From an insurance standpoint, it is not recommended to have pet friendly events.   If pets are allowed is there restrictions to be on leash or in designated areas.

Is the vineyard dog allowed to mingle in the crowd, “unsupervised?”

Know the difference between a professional service animal and a therapy pet and have clear rules so that you avoid an issue of selected acceptance or exclusion and can rely on your policy language.

Minors

Although minors may not be the norm for the tasting room, family friendly events can bring in a broad age range.   Have you crawled through your facility lately?  What may be obvious to an educated adult, may not be as clear to a child.  Locks and barriers are better than signs alone.  Have staff training to look for hazards and anticipate a lack of parental supervision.  Most wineries are not suitable as a daycare operation and should not have any childcare exposures.

Miscellaneous Exposures

  Evening Events: As a general rule of thumb, liability goes up when the sun goes down.  For many reasons, whether it be the time element of consuming more alcohol or just the visual difficulties to recognize hazards, losses are more likely as events run into the evening hours.   Having events that are shut down by 10:00pm would be considered a good practice and depending on your coverage carrier, may be a requirement.

  Cyber Security: Cyber / data breach coverage can include storing the credit card information for your club members, but can also apply to online purchases and any ticket sales for events.

  Private Events: When dealing with a special private event such as a Wedding or private party, clear contracts are the key.  The greatest frustrations come for unmet expectations.  Make sure all parties know what is being provided and what the expectations are for contracts, payment, timeframes or services.

  Real-life Claim Example: A facility that was not closed to the general public during a wedding event.  There was no clear detail on a separation of the wedding party areas vs the public access tasting room area.  In a clash of Party vs Public, tempers rose, words were cast and a white wedding dress is now a shade of cabernet.

Conclusion

This checklist is not all inclusive for all the unique elements to all event types.   The checklist should be a starting point for your facility.  Before hosting more events at your facility, review what type of events will be the best fit for your situation to provide a great experience for your guest.  Try to create events that will have a positive marketing buzz and will also increase your income while minimizing your exposures to loss.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments.

  Please contact us or your insurance professional if you have any questions. Products and services are offered through Markel Specialty, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated (national producer number 27585).  Policies are written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary.

For More Information Please Call Us At…800-814-6773, or Visit Our Website: markelinsurance.com/winery

Here Come the Hybrids

By: Nan McCreary

We hear a lot about hybrid cars, hybrid fruits, hybrid vegetables and even hybrid animals, but what about hybrid grapes? Traditionally, wines made from hybrid grapes have been a non-starter for wine lovers, but that’s about to change. As we prepare to enter a new decade, more and more wine professionals are taking a second look at hybrids, and pioneering winemakers and scientists are working to improve existing varieties and introduce new ones.

A Double-edged Vine

Hybrid grapes are the product of crossing breeding two or more Vitis species. In the U.S., these grapes are cultivated by combining the rootstock from Vitis vinifera, a European wine grape species, and North American vines, commonly Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia. Vitis vinifera is the source of noble wines so popular today, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Vitis labrusca is widely distributed across central and eastern Canada, and the central and northeastern part of the U.S. Vitis riparia originates in central and eastern Canada and the United States, extending as far west as Montana. Grapes from Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia in their original form are rarely used for winemaking.

French-American hybrid wines were created as a solution for Phylloxera which devastated the vineyards of Europe in the mid-1800s. Because American grapevines were resistant to phylloxera—as well as powdery mildew, rot and other disease— scientists responded to the crisis by grafting Vitis vinifera vines onto to disease-resistant American rootstock. While these new varieties did provide a solution to phylloxera, the grapes crossed with Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia were not as popular as those crossed with Vitis vinifera. Critics panned the hybrids because they lacked “purebred” status as well as the depth and complexity of Vitis vinifera grapes. Also, hybrid wines were often panned as “foxy,” a term describing juice that smells or tastes like musky Welch’s grape juice. These undesirable attributes caused many European countries to prohibited the use of hybrid grapes in quality wines.

Turning Tides

Today, the tide is turning for these much-maligned varieties. Unlike sensitive vinifera grapes that require particular weather conditions and soil to thrive, French-American hybrids made from Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia can grow just about anywhere. They withstand harsh winters—some surviving in temperatures as low as -30 F—as well as arid, brutally hot Arizona summers. Hybrid cultivars are critical to the rapid changes in eastern and central vineyards. With growth in wine-related tourism exploding, wineries are showing up in locations where wine production was once thought impossible. Hybrids are also increasingly popular because they are resistant to many diseases, which encourages growers to farm organically. Even the EU is encouraging producers to reconsider hybrid grapes, as cost and health concerns from fungicides continue to rise.

Much of the success of hybrid grapes today can be attributed to the enology departments at the University of Minnesota and Cornell University, which have been breeding hybrid wine varieties since the 1970s and 1980s. Minnesota’s wine grape research enjoys recognition as one of the top programs in the U.S., with the goal of developing high-quality, cold-hardy and disease-resistant wine grape cultivars. Cornell is home to one of the top viticulture and enology programs in the world with international recognition for its expertise in breeding table, juice and wine grapes adapted to cool-climate growing regions. Programs at both schools dedicate research to producing new grapes with potential for flavor and winemaking, with an ideal balance between cold-hardiness and delicate flavors.

The following is a list of the most popular French-American hybrids in the U.S., according to The Grape Grower’s Handbook by Ted Goldammer and used with permission from the publisher, Apex Publishing.

Red Wine Varieties

Baco Noir:  Produces wines that have been variously described as “Rhone-style” or “Beaujolais-style.” It is characterized by high titratable acidity at fruit maturity and produces wines of good quality that are normally deeply pigmented but low in tannin content. It develops a fruity aroma associated with aspects of herbs. The wine is grown primarily in Canada, New York, Oregon and Nova Scotia.

Chambourcin:  Considered one of the best of French-American hybrids, is a highly rated wine used often used for blending with other wines. The grape produces a deep-colored wine with a full, aromatic flavor, and no unpleasant hybrid flavors. It can be made into a dry style or one with a moderate residual sugar level, giving it a pleasant but not overbearing sweetness. Wines from this grape are higher in tannins than other French-American hybrids. Varietal descriptors include raspberry, cloves, cherry, plum, and tobacco. The wine may be found in Ontario (Canada), Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey.

Chancellor:  The wine quality is among the better of the French-American hybrids, and it does well alone or in blends. It produces a medium-bodied red wine which is capable of aging well. It tends to be very colored, and care should be taken not to extract too much color from the skins. It’s an important grape in the cooler regions of Canada and the U.S., such as the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

Frontenac:  Produces deep-colored wines with cherry, blackberry, black currant, and plum notes. It can also be used in production of port-style-wines. The University of Minnesota developed the grape and released in 1996. Because Frontenac can survive in temperatures as low as -30 F, it is planted across the Northeastern part of the U.S. and Canada and is one of the most commonly planted wine grapes in Minnesota.

Maréchal Foch:  Possesses Burgundian characteristics, having a vibrant, deep purple color, with a light-medium structure and dark berry fruit characteristics. Some tasters find the similarities to Burgundy Pinot Noir become more pronounced with age. Maréchal Foch is one of the hardiest of the hybrids and is widely grown commercially throughout the Midwestern U.S. and Canada.

Norton (Cynthiana):  Produces a rich, full-bodied dry red wine with berry flavors and spicy overtones. It can be used in varietal wines, including ports, but may also be blended with other reds. These wines have an intense color. Norton is grown in the Midwestern U.S., Mid-Atlantic States, Northeastern Georgia and, most recently, in California.

White Wine Varieties

Cayuga:  Produces a European style white table wine, which has medium body and good balance. This versatile grape can be made into a semisweet wine, which brings out the fruit aromas, or if oak aging, into a dry, less fruity wine. The Cayuga White grape was developed especially for the Finger Lakes Region in New York by Cornell University, and is known for producing fine sparkling wines.

Chardonel:  Is a cross of Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay that produces an excellent wine, with aromas characteristic of both parents. Chardonel has the potential for fine-quality, dry still wines produced with barrel fermentation and/or barrel aging. Chardonel is popular in the Midwestern U.S. and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Seyval Blanc:  Produces a fresh, crisp wine that is often described as good with attractive aroma, but the body is somewhat thin. Malolactic fermentation or barrel fermentation followed by oak aging will enhance the quality. The variety is also popular in Canada and the Midwestern U.S. and the Eastern U.S., particularly New York.

Traminette:  Is a late mid-season white wine grape which produces wine with distinctive floral aroma and spicy flavors, characteristic of its Gewürztraminer parent. Traminette’s relatively high acid and low pH help complement its fresh-fruit aromas and flavors. The wine can be made dry or sweet but is usually finished with some residual sweetness. The wine is grown on the East Coast of the U.S. and in the Midwest.

Vidal blanc:  Is considered one of the best of the white French-American hybrids. The wine produced from Vidal blanc is fruity, with grapefruit and pineapple notes. The wines produced can be quite versatile, ranging from off-dry German style wines to dry, barrel-fermented table wines. Due to its high acidity and fruitiness, it is particularly suited to sweeter, dessert wines. It is especially popular as an ice wine in Canada. You can also find Vidal Blanc the Eastern and Midwestern U.S.

Vignoles:  Produces excellent wines of many different styles, depending on the region where the grapes are grown. Most commonly, however, Vignoles is produced as an off-dry wine or as a dessert wine, especially when picked late in the season. The fruit can have a high sugar content while retaining high acidity. Vignoles is one of the mainstays of the Eastern North American wine industry. It is also prevalent in the Midwest and been called “Missouri’s favorite white wine.”

This list is by no means comprehensive. Cornell and Minnesota have created hundreds if not thousands of new varieties. In 2006, Minnesota introduced two cold-hardy grapes, Marquette and La Crescent. Marquette, a red grape, is said to have the characteristics of Vitis vinifera grapes, while La Crescent has been touted as the perfect choice for Riesling lovers. More recently, Minnesota released the Itasca hybrid, which has drawn comparisons to Sauvignon Blanc.

While French-American hybrids may not have reached the international status of Vitis vinifera wines, the future is wide open for these varietals. Researchers are continuing to develop grapes that produce desirable qualities, and growers are experimenting in site selection, growing techniques and winemaking. Hybrids are getting a second look, too, as an option to offset climate change. Researchers at the University of California Davis are trying to create heat resistant grapes that produce quality wines. In France, the INAO has approved a third category of grape varieties “for climate and environmental adaption” that allow regions to conduct their research on heat-resistant grape varietals.

Wines made from hybrid grapes continue to improve by leaps and bounds. Whether used to offset global warming, promote sustainability, due to changes in consumer tastes or the “localvore” movement, the time is right for these former “mutts” of the wine world. Who knows, one day a hybrid may take its rightful place in wine shops as “America’s grape,” and become a rising star in the international wine scene. Stay tuned!

Uninvited And Unwanted, Vineyard Pests Demand Attention

By: Gerald Dlubala

Vineyard pests are more than just unwanted guests. They can devastate crop yields, attract other pests, and bring along disease and contamination. Depending on the grape varietal and its location, landscape, and environment, the type and number of pests grape growers battle can change on an annual basis.

Ground Battles

The most common type of pest control is the use of pesticides. According to Lisa Malabad, Product Marketing Manager and Cannabis segment lead at Marrone Bio Innovations, pesticides are most successful when the vineyard manager considers the necessities of the vineyard before purchasing a product.

“There are no silver bullets because there are many factors that go into pesticide choice, including application window, ease of use, maximum allowance/season, application resistance and any additional resistance that may have developed that reduces the effectiveness of the applied product. Because of all the changing variables, it’s becoming more common for growers to add biological crop protection into their pest control programs,” Malabad said. Marrone Bio Innovations creates industry-leading platforms of pest management solutions for the agricultural community. Their products help increase crop yield while decreasing chemical residue and pesticide loads in the environment.

However, biological crop protection cannot wholly reduce pests on its own. Marrone Bio recommends a strong, integrated pest management program that includes three main controls: biological, cultural, and pesticides.

“The key to a robust pest management system is monitoring, scouting, assessing and treating in various methods,” says Malabad. “There are considerable products on the market today that are labeled for grapes while providing some level of control for key pests. They fall into three main types: biologicals use natural enemies to attack unwanted pests; cultural methods involve planting cover crops to inhibit or drive away those that are unwanted; and pesticides, which fall into either the organic or synthetic category.”

Integrated pest management programs allow vineyard managers and workers to get to know the vineyard and the changes it goes through from week-to-week throughout the season.

“There is no one answer,” says Malabad, “which is why most growers in California have trusted Pest Control Advisors that consult with the growers for best management practices. Different pests affect the vineyards at different times of the year, but mealybugs, leafhoppers, and mites are the more commonly found insects. Pest pressure and intensity changes from year to year, so many growers are starting to look at preventative measures to control pests. Each varietal has its nuances, so getting ahead of the problem is critical. Ground makeup, cultural practices and micro-climates will determine the best overall pest management program within any unique block, so field scouting is the most important tool we have to determine treatment thresholds and preferred treatment times.”

Marrone Bio offers a pair of organic insecticide options for grape growers to include in their programs. Venerate XC is a liquid, easily mixed and sprayed for repeated success against mites while being soft on both the beneficial insects and pollinators that are so important to vineyard success. Grandevo WDC is equally successful in strengthening any pest control program against mealybugs.

Oil-Based

Since 1977, JMS Flower Farms has been helping farmers eradicate powdery mildew, aphids, whiteflies, mites and more in grape crops with their JMS Stylet-Oil, an all-in-one, environmentally safe, white mineral oil-based insecticide, fungicide and plant disease controller that is food grade quality, colorless, tasteless and odorless. Extensive research has shown no effect on the flavor, taste or aroma of grapes or wine.

Stylet-Oil works by physical contact, requiring applicators to wear coveralls, chemical resistant gloves, and shoes and socks. Once applied through a sprayer, the oil acts as a smothering agent, killing powdery mildew on contact, and also preventing insect respiration, spore germination and the attachment of organisms to the host plant.

One of the benefits of using a mineral oil-based treatment like JMS Stylet-Oil is that it prevents mildew development, kills infections both before and after they are visible, and prevents sporulation. It has also proved effective against Botrytis bunch rot and when used as a resistance management tool. JMS recommends the oil as the first step in a powdery mildew treatment program to eradicate the strains before they become resistant.

Bird Battles

Dan Kramer, Technical Director of Avian Enterprises, wants nothing more than to make unwanted guests, in his case, the birds and geese, unhappy. Unhappy enough that they don’t want to come back to your vineyard. Ever. He considers himself a wine aficionado and wants his favorite grape growers to be successful and available. Continually, he’s heard one thing over and over from disgruntled vineyard owners at trade shows, most recently in Sacramento.

“Birds are decimating their crops,” says Kramer, “and that’s not an exaggeration. A group of birds can descend in numbers and do significant damage in no time at all. You’ll first notice a couple of scout birds, and before you know it, your grape crop is infested. That’s just the beginning. Birds just love to leave half-eaten grapes around, readily inviting other damaging pests and disease-carrying rodents to the party, and all of those droppings being left behind are an additional vector for disease and illness. We know that small groups of birds control the movement of the flock, so our goal with our Avian Control bird repellent is to make those birds around your vineyard unhappy. Avian Control makes them unhappy, and unhappiness leads them away.”

Avian Control is a liquid product that is most commonly applied by an air blast sprayer, a piece of equipment that many vineyards already have on hand. Applications are put directly on the fruit but do not affect the growing fruit strand. Kramer suggests applying the liquid every ten days as the product breaks down into a gaseous state.

“I liken it to our reaction to pepper spray,” says Kramer. “It affects the bird’s trigeminal nerve, triggering distress and carrying those sensations to the brain. They can absorb it through their feet when they touch it, through their mouths when tasting it, and when the product is transforming into a gaseous state, the birds will notice it by way of their nasal passages.”

It’s effective on birds only, which is a big advantage, and because of an invisible stain on the vegetation and bird’s eyesight sensitivity to UV rays, they will come to learn and recognize Avian Control treated areas.

“You’ll see the birds fly in, move around, leave, and maybe repeat once or twice before finally leaving altogether,” says Kramer. “They realize that something isn’t right within the treated areas and then respond to those areas as if they are off limits, moving on to more accessible areas.”

Avian Control has significantly reduced crop loss while overcoming objections about possible taste issues. Minimal dosing compared to other products is a significant factor in this accomplishment, with the use of 32 ounces per acre versus a two and a half gallon per acre spread rate for other treatments. In taste tests where the winemaker knew he was tasting the same grapes from a treated vs. untreated group, he was unable to discern any difference between the two tastings. Avian Control is a green, biodegradable product, featuring a one hundred percent break down rate with total non-toxicity.

“Netting is a great idea in concept, but it gets very costly with the amount of time and labor involved, and it also restricts airflow,” says Kramer. “And guess what? You still get birds in there anyway. For goodness sake, use your air blast sprayer that you likely have on hand, and save on time, money and labor costs. You can spread our product for about thirty-five dollars per acre, three times a year, rather than spending eight hundred dollars per acre installing and uninstalling those pain in the rear nets.”

Eye In The Sky

Wayne Ackermann, Director of Business Development for The Bird Control Group, keeps those birds away from your grapevines by using his automated laser bird repellent. Ackermann previously worked in the wine industry and used the Agrilaser Autonomic for his own agricultural needs before ultimately joining the company. The Agrilaser Autonomic is a fully automated bird repellent that uses lasers to deter birds around the clock. Sounds simple, but a significant amount of technology is behind the success of the device.

“With a laser, the human eye sees the dot, but the birds see the full beam, almost in the way that we see a laser when it’s projected through fog or steam. The birds see the whole thing, like a sword or stick, or as I like to say, a lightsaber,” says Ackermann. “The beam appears to them to be a real, physical, dangerous object coming towards them, so they scatter to get out of the perceived path. First trials were very successful in blueberry farms, so the next logical steps were to expand to vineyards, where it has proved to be a very effective tool, not only here but in international trials as well.”

Often, says Ackerman, only one unit is needed to keep birds away.

“Individual farm landscapes, terrain, and planting row density make a difference, as does canopy heights,” says Ackermann. “We start with one unit, which generally handles an eight to twelve-acre range. If more coverage is needed, we add additional units to overlap and provide cross coverage.”

The units can run by standard power or solar. Standard power is preferred if available in the fields because of longer run times and fewer potential complications, but if you want physical portability in the unit, then the solar panel option can be a useful upgrade. Each unit is programmable with up to 16 different patterns and one hundred different waypoints so that the birds won’t become accustomed to the same model. The Bird Control Group can set and program the units and also train the users of the units using their software program and a standard Windows-based laptop.

“It becomes very intuitive and user-friendly,” said Ackermann. “And the success rate of the laser technology has been significant.”

However, Ackermann says that they are continually learning and improving through new studies and the experiences of current customers.

“Hey, these birds are smart,” said Ackermann. “They get accustomed to all kinds of things like thump cannons, squawk boxes, ribbons and balloons. So far, lasers have worked out very well with a reported 70% success rate in keeping birds away. That number grows if you use it in conjunction with other options.”

Maintenance on the Agrilaser Autonomic is simple and straightforward, with regular lens cleaning and battery replacements. An internal timer and regular programs control the lasers, which come with a one-year warranty.

Coexisting With Wildlife in the Canadian Vineyard

By April Ingram

British Columbia touts the tag-line ‘Super, Natural British Columbia’ in their tourism branding and advertising, drawing visitors from all over the world to come and see Canadian wildlife in all its natural glory.  Wilderness tourism is a primary driver of all tourism in BC, which in total represents $13.8 billion in revenue and 132,000 direct jobs.

The region is blessed with a rich variety of habitats and wildlife and distinct wine growing regions surrounded by stunning natural scenery. Some of the same factors of climate, soil, and geography that contribute to growing the wine industry also support a diversity of unique ecosystems and plant and animal populations.

As the human population and development expand, many wildlife species increasingly depend on private land and working landscapes such as vineyards for all or part of their life cycle. This necessity translates into interactions with some of our wild inhabitants on a near daily basis, and some encounters are more positive than others. Wildlife such as deer, bear, rodents and birds can develop a liking for grapes, or the vine itself, and cause significant crop losses.

There seems to be a shift in attitude from wildlife in the vineyard being regarded as pests that need to be managed, to a coexistence, leading to healthy and biologically diverse ecosystems. Maintaining this balance can provide many essential services to viticulturists and reduce the need for inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, increase the productive capacity of the land, and reduce production risks.

Vineyards provide habitat, food sources and breeding grounds for a variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles and can serve as corridors for wildlife as they move between habitats. It is important to balance the need to protect your vines and grapes with the need to maintain healthy local ecosystems and support the species that depend on them.

Before veraison, our wild inhabitants usually find the grapes to be too tart, but things can become especially problematic in the lead up to harvest.  As the grapes accumulate more sugar, they become especially tasty for birds, deer and bears, whose pre-winter appetites can be destructive to harvest yields. Even more so, as growers carefully monitor the temperatures until they dip down to the required -12 C, those grapes are one of the few food sources available at that time of year for birds and deer, so protecting them becomes a top priority.

Sound wildlife management requires using an integrated approach that should include prevention of conflict, identifying and learning about the species, monitoring them and the damage they cause, choosing appropriate control methods and reviewing the effectiveness of your actions. Most wildlife issues are managed through preventative measures. For example, habitat alteration and exclusion strategies can reduce the number of pests and problem wildlife frequenting your vineyard. These strategies may include using grow tubes around young vines to discourage chewing by rodents; selecting cover crops that are less desirable to wildlife, locating compost heaps away from forests and thickets; and clearing away brush piles that create habitat for birds.

The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance (OSCA) is a registered non-profit society run by a volunteer board of directors, with other dedicated volunteers and contract staff who plan and deliver over one hundred environmental events every year in communities in the region. They help farmers connect with organizations and resources to fund conservation projects. This kind of support is crucial because merely wanting to get along with wildlife is far easier than actually making a plan and doing the hard work. As Tanya Brouwers, the OSCA ECOstudies coordinator says, “it’s one thing to put up a bat box, but it’s quite another to have to fence off a wetland, a long stretch of creek or to replant these areas if they’ve been damaged. Projects like these can be very costly to a farmer.”

Know Your Neighbors

Getting to know your animal neighbors is vital. Invasive species and native birds may both be unwanted in the vineyard, but strategies for controlling these pests differ. The Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Species at Risk Act protect some birds (e.g., bluebirds and Lewis’s Woodpecker) and these protections require that management strategies fit within the law.

Starlings, robins, house finches and other birds feed on grapes. Starlings, however, cause the most damage. Ensure that starlings are not able to nest in farm structures, or destroy their nests before the young fledge. Creating nest traps can be useful in controlling starlings, but care should be taken not to trap other cavity-nesting birds (e.g., bluebirds, flickers). It is illegal to kill or harass most native birds and their nests in Canada as detailed in the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the BC Wildlife Act. However, the European Starling is a non-native bird for which there is an aggressive campaign of extermination and netting to prevent fruit loss.

Audible bird scare devices can be a nuisance to the vineyard’s human neighbors; therefore the provincial government’s Ministry of Agriculture has developed strict guidelines for the use of these devices.

Rodents can damage young vines by gnawing on grape shoots, roots and crowns. While the damage they cause in vineyards is usually minor, they also attract animals such as badgers, snakes and coyotes, which can become problem wildlife. Snakes are not considered an agricultural pest but can become a nuisance or a danger to vineyard workers. In fact, snakes are beneficial to crops because they are significant predators of rodents. Provincial and federal laws make it an offense to harass or kill snakes.

Deer and elk can severely damage vines. They don’t just eat buds, spurs, shoots, fruit and leaves, they scratch their itches, and rub their antlers against the plant, breaking branches and removing bark in the process.

When dealing with deer and elk, sScare devices like cracker or whistler shells, propane exploders, and electronic Av-Alarm or Phoenix Wailer Systems are an option, but may also become a problem for neighbors. Some growers allow hunters (especially bow hunters) to access their land during hunting seasons, where this is permissible. Some opt to plant “lure crops,” crops less desirable to wildlife.

God’s Mountain Estates placed their vineyard deer fence well inside their property boundaries, leaving natural habitat outside the fence but within their acreage. This fencing placement allows wildlife to travel along all four sides of the vineyard to get to their water sources and up to the cliffs and forest for shelter, but keeps them from snacking on the grape harvest along the way.

Bears

Bears can be a nuisance in some vineyards and can pose a threat to workers, becoming a severe problem as the harvest approaches. In years when native berry hosts have low production, vineyards have become a favorite target of bears in the fall. Depending on the intensity of bear attack, vineyard managers have tried many different methods to keep bears out, such as nightly patrols to scare off bears with bird flares and bangers, rubber bullets or other scare tactics. Managers must weigh this approach against staff costs and safety. The only long-term, proven and effective method for keeping bears out of vineyards is properly constructed electric fencing.

John Skinner of Painted Rock described a worrying “infestation” of black bears in the vineyard six years ago that led to a loss of 11 tons of grapes in just three weeks. “In September of 2010, we noticed bear scat and evidence that they were eating our grapes overnight. As time went on, more bears arrived, having no problem climbing our deer fence. Losing fruit at night is one thing, but the bears started showing up during the day when our staff were busy at work among the vines,” Skinner told Wine Spectator in 2016. “We had to solve the problem with a higher electrified fence, as well as an electric mat at the front gate.”

Waterside Vineyard & Winery in Enderby, BC considers their resident bear and his appetite more of a barometer for harvest and part of the “nature tax.” On their website, they describe him as, “a great bear that comes down from the mountains, and wanders into the vineyard. He seeks the sweetness and comfort of this place where he began, a place where he, too, grew and thrived, and returns to when the grapes are perfect in their ripening for magnificent flavors of wine.  He is our telltale of harvest time.”  Jennifer Marcotte of Waterside shares that this season she has not yet caught a photo of their bear, but, “just evidence, and missing grapes!”

To mediate some of the damage caused by wildlife to farmers in the province, the government created the Agriculture Wildlife Program that provides compensation for losses to harvests due to specific wildlife (bison, bear, cranes, deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, and waterfowl). Unfortunately, this program does not extend to grape growers, only to lost forage crops.

Kelowna’s Tantalus Vineyards has numerous initiatives to preserve sustainability and peaceful coexistence with local wildlife. According to their website, they are a naturally-farmed vineyard—hand tended, no use of herbicides and the vineyard ecosystem biodiversity encouraged through the preservation of a 10-acre natural, dry land forest in its center. Kelowna also developed a partnership with Okanagan Similkameen Wildlife Habitat Stewardship to identify and enhance wildlife diversity. They have specially constructed nesting boxes to encourage populations of beneficial bird species like the Western Bluebird and sparrows, as well as newly installed bat nesting boxes to boost their populations on site. This is part of ongoing work with the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, working toward long-term solutions that allow people, vineyards and wildlife to coexist.

“Wine is Sunlight, Held Together By Water”

By Tracey L. Kelley

Galileo said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” A wine enthusiast may have this quote in calligraphy on a decorative wall hanging, but winemakers and vineyard managers know the truth behind it.

Vineyard irrigation isn’t often a romantic craft topic, but its constant evolution requires frequent examination and an exchange of knowledge so each droplet replenishes the vine in just the right way. And while American Viticultural Areas (AVA) delineate regions with similar characteristics, individual landscapes still present unique challenges in water management that encourage or prohibit the best yield. This is when the application of science influences art.

Fine-Tuning Your Approach

Maybe after last year’s harvest, you discovered some inconsistencies. Perhaps your current system isn’t as effective, or needs other modifications. Or as the acreage grows, it’s harder to keep up with soil variations and water needs in certain areas. “Irrigation management takes a lot of time and effort to ensure it’s managed correctly,” said Wesley Porter, assistant professor and extension precision ag and irrigation specialist with the University of Georgia (UGA). “Precision irrigation is critical to proper crop production and quality. This allows for more stabilized yields during times of low to no rainfall, more commonly known as periods of episodic drought. So this is a task growers should take seriously.”

Technological applications in precision viticulture continue to expand the potential of using quality data and devices with which to base decisions. For example, aerial mapping by drone enhances topographical views. Remote sensing, first established for many aspects of agriculture the 1960s, is now an essential component of vineyard irrigation systems. “Using only sight inspection to determine irrigation scheduling isn’t the most valid method, as once moisture stress is visible, typically yield is lost,” Porter told The Grapevine Magazine. “More advanced methods should be implemented such as soil/water balance models or soil moisture sensors to make appropriate irrigation scheduling decisions.”

Usually there are two ways to measure soil moisture in an active vineyard:

  • Tensiometric measurement, or soil water tension, which analyzes the physical force holding water in the soil.
  • Volumetric measurement, which evaluates the percentage of water in a certain area of soil.

Often, it’s important to understand how difficult it is for vines to draw water from the soil. Soil texture classes for vineyards include clay, loam, sand, and silt, with varying characteristics for each. Many growers often deal with a combination of soil compositions in their landscapes, and this means continuing to recalibrate irrigation procedures with proper data.

Tom Penning is president of IRROMETER, based in California. The company manufactured the first commercially-viable tensiometer for use with scheduled irrigation, and now has a product line that includes sensors, reading meters, and remote data access portals. Penning said these technological field tools help producers strategize irrigation needs and solve problems, such as excessive run-off or pooling, more quickly.

“The sensor data gives them information on water availability with which to make these decisions. If evidence of significant variability in percolation is revealed, then the grower can determine where to change emitter sizing to better match the soil characteristics,” he said. “Sensor data provides better resolution of where and when these problems occur, thus allowing the grower to better address the issues.”

IRROMETER’s tensiometric devices don’t require site calibration, but volumetric measurement devices often do. Since most soil moisture sensors work with a variety of irrigation methods—including drip, sprinkler and micro-spray—a producer’s choice often relates to irrigation capabilities, terrain and personal preference.

And a winemaker’s approach to irrigation refinements and scheduling might include a solid combination of tech along with paying attention to the vine’s subtle hints.

“I like to make a ‘leaf sandwich’—gauging leaf temperature by holding a leaf between your hands,” said Gill Giese, a viticulture extension specialist at New Mexico State University. “Even a fully-exposed leaf should be somewhat cool to the touch. If not, the vine may be stressed. Other vine-based indicators are drooping leaves, such as when you see their angles in relation to the sun are bent downward to avoid full exposure. Finally, look at the tendrils. If they’re exerted beyond the shoot tip, then the vine is likely not water stressed,” Giese said.

A longtime educator, Giese is also a former winegrower for Shelton Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley region of North Carolina—the first AVA recognized by the U.S. federal government. One challenge there had less to do with designing an effective watering system, but rather dealing with the excess moisture of the region due to humidity and rainfall—a common problem for many growers east of the Rocky Mountains. He advised producers to assess other site-specific factors when determining irrigation needs.

“All the vine-centric parameters should be considered: climate, vine spacing, trellis type, variety and rootstock, training system and production goals—both quality and quantity. These needs are reevaluated as the vineyard develops and grows, year-to-year and within a given season. Vine age and phenological growth stage impact the optimum water requirements as well,” Giese told The Grapevine Magazine. “Additionally, beyond the obvious differences of climate during the growing season such as differences in precipitation and vapor pressure deficit, grapevines progress through the same growth stage, regardless of location. The optimum amount of water for each growth stage must be learned at each location.”

Penning said one problem growers face is they often don’t know the variabilities that exist within the soil in the vineyard. “The use of soil moisture sensors illustrates the status within the root zone, which isn’t visible without in-situ instrumentation,” he said. “The status below ground as well as what’s visible on the surface at representative locations provides the grower with comprehensive data when they schedule irrigation.”

A frequent question about irrigation practices involves understanding when not to water. This harkens back to the adage of “stressing the vine.” Giese had thoughts about this.

“The grapevine needs a slight water deficit just after berry set in order to limit berry size at veraison and harvest. Regardless of location, a widespread belief or practice is limit water to vines post-veraison. This is tricky,” he said. “Too much stress and the leaves stop photosynthesis. If this happens, the flow of sugar and other assimilates is halted and berry-ripening suffers. If photosynthesis stops and then water is supplied, the delay in reactivation of photosynthesis may too late to be optimal. But growers east of the Rocky Mountains differ because of water excess due to rain post-veraison. In some dry vintages, they’re tempted to totally withhold water post-veraison, and this can be a mistake.”

Giese suggested producers apply stress through regulated deficit irrigation, but don’t over-stress vines. The University of California, Davis (UCDavis) Drought Management Department provides detailed information about this practice on its website. For further reading, also consider Pete Jacoby’s research at Washington State University about deeper subsurface irrigation systems that force grapevines to extend root zones, stress plants only slightly, and require less irrigation.

Finally, if you’re not already employing the use of cover crops between the rows to boost irrigation efforts, these experts encouraged you to do so.

“The correct selection of cover crops help in many ways,” Porter from UGA said. “They aid in shading the soil surface and improving soil structure, both of which reduce evapotranspiration; and also aid in increasing infiltration and reducing runoff. Cover crops also encourage weed suppression.”

Giese added, “Cover crops can provide competition for excess nutrients and water in the case of regions with excess rainfall. They also provide numerous other benefits:  ground cover or thatch/mulch that limits evaporation, increased infiltration rate of water, better soil structure and thus, improved water holding capacity, increased organic matter, mitigation of erosion and others,” he said. “But in the Southwest, most growers don’t employ cover crops, as the amount and cost of additional water required is prohibitive. I currently have some studies in place to take critical look at some ground cover options in the Southwest.” 

Right Now, It’s All About Maintenance

The average cost of a vineyard drip or micro-sprinkler irrigation system ranges $1,500-$3,000 per acre. While some growers may participate in a cost-sharing plan, managing this investment effectively comes down to maintenance. Here are a few things to consider.

  • Growers west of the Rocky Mountains might still need to water once a month or so “to ensure the soil profile is nearly full when vines are ready to bud out in spring,” said Giese.
  • Growers east of the Rockies should winterize their systems. “Check for leaks, evaluate hose structure, check the pumping system and filters and so on,” said Porter. He offers a number of irrigation resources, including checklists for maintenance, on the UGA Extension website.
  • Throughout North America, wildlife control is an ongoing concern in irrigation maintenance. “This is a hard issue to resolve,” Porter said. “Do the best job you can to keep equipment protected either in weatherproof enclosures or critter-proof sheathing. Ensure that drip tape and emitters are buried and/or out of their reach.”
  • Get started on growth season maintenance by clearing vines, roots and weeds from emitters, testing soil and water, calibrating pressure gauges to manufacturer guidelines and running pump tests.
  • Also use this time to look into more cost-savings measures. For example, solar-powered drip irrigation systems help growers better manage energy and water consumption. A fact sheet is available on the UCDavis website.

Incorporate Conservation Methods Now

A primary concern of any vineyard owner is proper land management, and water continues to be a critical resource to conserve. “Global water concerns heighten the awareness of the importance of water use efficiency,” Penning said. “Precision agriculture includes exact water management, and these concepts are needed for sustainability of the resource.”

World climate data indicates the past four years were the hottest on record, with expanded drought events. While grapevines endure heat and drought better than most crops, and dry farming is still popular throughout Europe, growers notice climate changes and the need to modifying practices. In 2018, excessive drought in South Africa’s Western Cape reduced harvest by 15 percent. Producers there are evaluating drought-resistant vines still rich in flavor, intensity and acidity. Growers in France are purchasing land farther northwest in chilly, cloudy Brittany, once considered undesirable because of winds and moisture off the Atlantic Ocean.

In America, the Petaluma Gap in Northern California received an AVA designation in December 2017—something that probably wouldn’t have happened 20–30 years ago for this cooler, slightly wetter clime. Similarly, the Van Duzer Corridor in Oregon is experiencing rapid growth as winemakers use the region’s hot, dry days tempered by cool nights and damp morning fog to nurture thin-skinned grapes.

Giese said proper water and irrigation management has always been critical to growing wine, and will continue to become more of an issue as increased demands are placed on water supply. “Growers in the West have been aware of this for some time. Look to work being done in California and Australia for trends in irrigation and management. Often growers of other high-volume or high-value crops use techniques we can adopt for advantage in winegrowing,” he said.

One rising trend in North America is the use of vineyard waterbodies for irrigation needs. Few vineyards have quality wells to draw from, and many states and provinces continue to implement strict water rights and usage laws for agricultural access to springs, running water sources and municipal or rural systems. Depending on the size of the property, even a two- to three-acre pond can be a viable, independent source of summer irrigation.

A strong sustainable method for drip irrigation systems, ponds can also flash supply micro-sprinkler applications when vines are in need of frost protection or conversely, cooling from high heat, without too much danger of exhausting the pond when more frequent irrigation scheduling events are necessary. Primary reservoirs are often reliant on rainfall as well as subsurface water collection drains for replenishment, but additional waterbodies can be created to contain and later aerate wastewater from the winemaking process.

There are some concerns when sourcing from onsite still water sources. Following local and federal quality regulations and frequent testing for algae, nuisance weeds, invasive species, bacteria and chemical runoff from neighboring farms are major management issues. Pest and mosquito control can sometimes be a problem. Wildlife in search of fresh water can damage or pollute a reservoir, or happen to also love juicy grapes, furthering labor efforts for netting and other protective methods.

There’s also the investment. For example, if there isn’t a suitable clay soil site on a property to use as a base, then installing additional soil reinforcement or even liners is necessary. Proper buffering methods are a must as well. On average, the cost for vineyard pond construction could escalate beyond $200,000. However, the need for conservation is so great, there may be options.

“Often, government agencies incentivize the purchase of such irrigation water management tools to improve the efficiency of water use,” Penning said. “Growers should check with their local agencies to see if funding is available to help subsidize the investment.”

In addition to county and state initiatives supporting soil and water conservation grants, another possibility to establish a sustainable irrigation system is the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. The agency often extends funding through its Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program and water-based Landscape Conservation Initiatives.

Pruning Techniques and Tools

By Robin Dohrn-Simpson

Between last year’s harvest and the new growing season lies a gnarled mess of grape vines. The plants rested during the winter and are ready to begin their new growth cycle. First, however, the dormant plants will need pruning. For vines young and old, pruning is the key to managing canopy, fruit quality and growth.

“One of the most important vineyard practices a vineyard owner must accomplish every single year is dormant pruning. Pruning grapes aids in keeping the shape and architecture of the vine, sets the ultimate crop load for the season and encourages fruit formation for the following season,” said Michael Cook, Viticulture Program Specialist at North Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Cook provides research-based knowledge to members of the Texas wine industry.

Pruning, Cook said, should be done every year. “Since clusters are exclusively borne on one-year-old wood (called canes when dormant) it is critical to prune your vine–whether you are a commercial grower or a backyard hobbyist–every single season. We often remove 80-90 percent of the wood that grew the previous year every time we prune,” he said.

Even if pruning is done each year, when done incorrectly it can adversely affect the health of the vines. Vineyard managers should ensure that they and their staff are taking the time to learn the correct way to prune their canopies.

“Improper pruning will always lead to a vine that is out of balance and more susceptible to environmental stressors and disease. Whether under- or over-cropped, the health of the vine itself and the crop for this season, as well as subsequent seasons, will be negatively affected. If this is not fixed and improper pruning occurs every season, the sustainability of the vineyard will be called into question rather quickly. Therefore it is paramount that anyone growing grapes take the time to learn and practice pruning with a mentor,” Cook said.

When to Prune

When to prune differs throughout wine regions; however, it is critical to do so at the appropriate time to avoid early bud break.

“In Texas, our greatest threat that limits when we can prune is spring frost. In other states, such as in the Central Valley of California, pruning can commence once the vines go dormant because in most areas frost is a rare occurrence. This is not the case for Texas. It is not uncommon in the High Plains, where 80 percent of our commercial wine grapes are grown (or in North Texas or the Hill Country) to see spring frosts occurring as late as Easter,” Cook said.

For growers in regions where frost is a concern, consider employing double pruning. In double pruning, vines are pruned twice during dormancy, once in late winter or early spring, and once before bud break, typically in March.

“With the first pass of rough pruning, the grower will cut each cane back to about 10 inches. This removes most of the tangled mess; and if the vine decides to break bud and there is a frost, only the top buds will be affected. These will be pruned off anyway during final pruning,” Cook said. “The second pass, or final pruning, occurs right before bud break. Here the grower will approach each spur position (the location where one-year-old wood is found) along the cordons and will remove all but one cane and prune the remaining cane down to one, two, or three buds. This type of final pruning is called spur pruning and is most common in Texas. While spur pruning is the most common technique, there are a few vineyards who cane prune certain varietals.”

While double pruning is a useful tool that can reduce the risk of frost damage, Cook told the Grapevine Magazine it does not guarantee protection from it.

Pruning Techniques & Error Management

One of the greatest fears of a new grower is pruning too severely or not enough. Often is it better to prune too much, since heavy pruning promotes good fruiting. However, Cook suggests balance and consistency to quell any worries.

“For each spur, the grower has to decide which cane he or she will keep and then prune down to one, two, or even three buds. For weak spur positions, only one bud will be retained for that season. A healthy cane, often around pencil size in diameter, can support two buds. Under vigorous conditions where a cane is larger than ‘Sharpie size,’ we will often leave three buds. It all boils down to balance. If done properly, the following season the new canes will be pruned to two buds,” Cook said.

For growers who aren’t sure what to do, or think they’ve made a mistake,  reach out to a local extension office for guidance.

“One of the great things about cultivating grapes is that they are often very tough and resilient. If you make a mistake, it is important to correct that mistake as soon as possible. Fortunately, mistakes are usually easily corrected. If a mistake was made and the time to prune has passed, multiple canopy management practices can be conducted–such as shoot thinning and fruit thinning–which can be used to keep a vine in a healthy and sustainable balance,” said Cook. “The best way to know if you have made a mistake and how to correct it is to attend one of our hands-on workshops. Each of the four growing regions of Texas has an Extension Viticulture Program Specialist like me who can help you.”

To keep the vine healthy throughout the process, continual sanitation and use of fungicides will keep vines healthy.

“During the pruning process, it is advised to routinely sanitize pruning shears to help prevent the spread of disease, such as grapevine trunk disease. Additionally, once the vine has been pruned it is advised to spray specific fungicides within 24 hours to protect the recently made wounds on the vines,” said Cook.

Training a Vine

Vine training takes approximately three to four years. In the first year of planting the focus is on creating a strong and straight trunk as well formation of roots. In the second and third year, the focus is on incremental cordon establishment; these cordons will bear the crop every year. It is strongly recommended to remove all fruit from the vines during trunk and cordon establishment since it will compete with root and shoot formation. A partial crop may be possible in the third year.

“Once the cordons have become fully established, the vineyard is considered mature, and that is when double pruning will be initiated. It is important to note that while the trunk is often considered a permanent structure, unless diseased or damaged, the cordons should be removed and retrained every 10-15 years to rejuvenate production,” Cook said.

Using Proper Tools

Using quality tools saves both time and potential body overuse. FELCO has been manufacturing vineyard management tools for roughly 75 years. Their mission is to offer innovative and durable solutions to commercial pruning and cutting markets.

FELCO offers electronic pruners that have for years been quite popular in Europe, Australia, South Africa and even niche markets like South Korea. In recent years, faced with a growing labor shortage, these electronic pruners have become popular among U.S. vintners.

“The U.S. market so far has been blessed with very inexpensive farm labor when compared to a country like France, for example. More and more growers in the United States are seeing the solution to labor issues as well as being able to bring more women into the workforce with this product. It requires no effort to use and can dramatically improve efficiency and job quality,” said Ryan Amberg, Brand Manager of PYGAR, a subsidiary of FELCO.

The versatile FELCOtronic tool line can be adjusted depending on vine width and size. Workers can change the head opening by accessing the portable control box, allowing the sheers to cut vines up to two inches in diameter, making it, according to Amberg, an ideal tool for orchards as well.

FELCO offers a large variety of shears to fit different size hands and different dominant hands. “When doing fine pruning, you should always have the blade in the right position in comparison to the bud. If you are left-handed using a right-handed pruner, this can be difficult to achieve. With a left-handed pruner the ergonomics are proper for prolonged use,” Amberg said.

The blades of FELCO’s pruners are made from high quality proprietary high carbon steel. “We have a clear vision to be the premier product. To do this, it means we must cater to our customer and their needs and applications. Our blades are one of our key strengths along with our lifetime warranty on all forged aluminum parts. You can have a FELCO and keep it for multiple generations. They can rust, but will hold a much better edge than something in stainless steel which tends to wear much faster.”

FELCO tools are easy to maintain. All that is needed is light oil, hydrophobic grease and a sharpening stone. With these three items, you can keep a tool working like new for many seasons. Find FELCO products at nurseries, agriculture supply retailers and online at FELCO.com.

As with every growing season, pruning is just the beginning of an exciting new time. Bill Schweitzer of Paccielo Vineyards in Ramona, California certainly believes that, and hopes others remember as well. “Pruning is our chance each year to create great wine in the vineyard. If we watch what the plants do naturally, and guide them to do what we want, they will turn out great. Remember, the grape is a weedy vine; it has strong roots and the strength to grow to the top of the nearest tree. It is hard to make a mistake. The vine will grow around it.”

Tips & Best Practices for Wildlife Control in the Vineyard

Few things frustrate vineyard operators more than producing healthy grapes only to have them eaten by pests. Small insects are a significant cause for concern, but larger animals often put delicate grapes at risk as well. This article will discuss the topic of wildlife control in the vineyard and the various ways that vineyards can effectively and humanely deter wildlife to protect their valuable grapes.

Wildlife That Impact Vineyards

Matt Doyle of Doyle Vineyard Management in Hammondsport, New York told The Grapevine Magazine that the most common pest problems that occur in the Finger Lakes region are deer, birds, and turkey. A premier Finger Lakes region grape grower, Doyle Vineyard Management also offers full-service vineyard management services and sustainable vineyard programming.

Meanwhile, in the Sebastopol, California area, Rick Williams of Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery said most of the wildlife issues that plague vineyards in this region are gophers.

“Most of the problems that they cause are with new plantings, whereby they will eat the tender roots of new plants,” Williams said. “Established vines have such an extensive root system that the gophers don’t generally pose a serious threat. The holes that they dig cause issues within the vine rows, creating soft spots that tractors and other vehicles traveling down the vine rows can sink into.”

Williams said that rats and mice climb vines to feed on the berries. “Most other problems are from coyotes that come into the vineyards and are digging after the gophers because they dig large holes,” he said.

According to Williams, birds also cause a significant problem in vineyards when they eat the berries as they mature. Wayne Ackermann of the Wilsonville, Oregon-based Bird Control Group told The Grapevine Magazine that the type of birds that cause damage and financial loss to vineyards largely depends upon the location.

“On the west coast, we tend to see most damage caused by starlings and blackbirds,” Ackermann said. “On the East Coast, cedar waxwings and robins tend to be the issue, but in all regions, there are many birds attracted to the sweetness of the ripening grapes.”

Not only can wildlife pests eat the grapes and gnaw on the roots and trunks of grapevines, but they can also cause other significant types of damage as well. For example, wildlife pests can damage irrigation systems, cause erosion, and leave bacteria and fungus on grapes from their fecal matter. These behaviors cause contamination, bunch rot, and off-flavors in the final product.

Wildlife Control Solutions for Vineyards

Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent and control wildlife through vineyard management and safeguards. There is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach to wildlife control, so vineyard owners should consult with pest control experts in their local area for advice.

Deer in the Vineyard

Deer tend to enter vineyards early in the year to graze on young shoot growth, which can destroy a vineyard’s training system. Deer can also be a significant nuisance when it comes time for harvest. It is best to use deterrents before the animals have discovered the potential food source.

Sunni Ashley, co-owner of Vineyard Industry Products, and said that deer, pigs, and bears are best controlled with fencing. The company has stores in Windsor, Paso Robles and Los Alamos, California carrying a variety of wildlife control products for vineyards. Their products include barbed wire, bird netting, mylar tape, traps, grow tubes and, of course, fencing. Fencing that extends six to eight feet high and made of woven wire can be installed to deer-proof a vineyard.

“Deer require at least six feet of fencing, but depending on the area, you may need to go higher,” Ashley said. “You can add two strands of high tensile wire at the top to get to seven feet. For pigs, putting the barbed wire along the bottom and connecting it at each stake (and sometimes another stake in between the standard fence posts) helps.”

Meanwhile, physical barriers, such as grow tubes and mesh vinyl screens, can be placed to protect young vines. In some regions, vineyard owners can obtain deer damage permits to hunt deer that cause substantial damage to crops and to reduce the population outside of the established hunting season. Odor repellents can be useful for deer control, acoustical repellants can scare away both birds and deer, and dogs can be trained to deter deer and protect vineyards too.

Doyle uses many of these options to keep deer from his vines. “The ways we control [deer] are utilizing fences for severe deer pressure, pig blood spray to deter deer from eating the vines, and having people fill out NYSDEC deer nuisance permits. We use Plantskydd deer repellent sprays on newer vineyards,” he said.

Rodents in the Vineyard

Many pest control and vineyard management companies use traps and baiting to control wildlife, mainly gophers. It is recommended to set many traps, note the location of gopher mounds, and place bait in the pests’ underground tunnels.

This process requires a substantial amount of patience and effort, which is why fumigation may be used simultaneously to control gophers and other rodents using aluminum phosphide in the late winter and early spring with moist soil. Other wildlife control solutions include bringing in barn owls to help control field mice, voles, and gophers. Nest boxes in the vineyard help owls set up habitats to accomplish this type of rodent control.

Williams of Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery said that they “carry a variety of traps to kill the gophers.” He also said they do not have cost-effective organic rodent deterrents for large-scale application.

Birds in the Vineyard

Birds often pose late-season threats to vineyards, especially for those in a migratory pathway. Bird control is typically a point-of-contact effort, with netting and scare devices among the most common deterrents.

“For birds, we typically use BirdGard brand devices to deter birds, bird bangers, or occasionally net varieties that have heavy pressure. We have no real control measures for turkey, but they cause minimal damage compared to the deer and birds,” said Doyle.

Netting is a popular choice among vineyard owners, although bird nets can be a hassle to put on and later remove. Over-the-row netting is often used in vineyards to cover large surface areas. These nets are made of nylon, plastic, cotton, polyethylene, or a lightweight acrylic material to drape over plants. Netting can be a costly investment for a vineyard, but a quality net lasts several years.

Scare devices such as motion-activated water sprinklers and electronic scarecrows are also typical.

Bird Control Group is the world leader for laser bird deterrents and bird repellent solutions that have proven to decrease bird nuisances by over 70 percent. The company offers a fully automated bird repellent system that effectively scares away birds by projecting a laser beam towards them. The birds perceive the laser as a danger and fly away. It’s a one-time investment that does not harm the animal or the environment, and it has patented safety features to eliminate potential hazards.

Bird Control Group initially targeted commercial blueberry growers in 2017 because they do not have the option of netting and often depend on expensive falconers for bird control. After immediate success providing an effective, cheaper solution, the company ran two experiments with vineyards that same year in Petaluma, California and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Both vineyards saw great success and saved on labor.

“In 2018, many vineyards incorporated our laser technology in California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey,” Ackermann of Bird Control Group said. “We have also seen our sales aggressively grow with vineyards in Australia and Chile, as their season is just getting going. The lasers are a very good tool, and the trend is for customers to return for additional units and also send their friends to us. We always say that farmers vote with their wallet, and when they return to buy more lasers, we know it’s doing something well for them.”

Ackermann of Bird Control Group reminds vineyards there is no silver bullet and that vintners should incorporate methods that fit into their current pest management strategy. Noisemakers, netting, and Falcons all have their successes, but they can also create challenges with neighbors, become labor-intensive, and drain a vineyard’s budget.

“Our lasers aren’t a 100 percent cure, but they do work well and provide a large amount of control,” Ackermann said. “The key advice, I would say, is to start early. Your best success is to keep birds out of the vineyard and not let them get a good taste of the fruit. Just like other measures of a good IPM Program, prevention is always easier than eradication when farming.”

To comply with the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, vineyard owners should check the local and state laws before controlling any bird species. This act protects all birds aside from pigeons, starlings, and sparrows; however, local ordinances may vary from place to place.

Organic and Natural Wildlife Control

For a more natural approach to wildlife control in the vineyard, adding plants is a simple, humane, and proactive way. Aromatic deterrents are ideal for rabbits and deer because both are sensitive to smells. Marigolds, for example, can be planted at the end of vineyard rows to deter rabbits. Vineyard operators can plant strong-smelling herbs such as tansy and artemisia near the vineyard. Culinary herbs, like mint, thyme, oregano, chives, sage, rosemary and dill have a similar effect.

These methods play into the strategy of biodiversity within a vineyard and may be more of a priority for organic winegrowers. Organic strategies typically revolve around creating habitats for beneficial animals and plants that are native to the region, as well as utilizing integrated canopy management and vine balance to keep the fruiting zone aerated, equipped with enough sunlight, and with the right amount of nutrients and water.

Pest Prevention and Monitoring in the Vineyard

Proper planning and preparation go a long way in keeping unwanted animals out of your vineyard and away from your grapes. In all seasons, it is critical to monitor the vineyard for large wildlife pests. Control strategies should be implemented at the very first signs of pest activity.

“The best way to monitor the vineyard for wildlife pests is to regularly walk the vineyard and inspect for evidence of these pests,” said Harmony Farm Supply’s Williams.

Ashley of Vineyard Industry Products and her team advise vineyards to keep gates closed, check around the perimeter daily for pests, and keep fencing in good repair. “Check for holes and damage in your bird netting prior to installation, install at the appropriate time, and secure it under the canopy properly,” she said.

Doyle of Doyle Vineyard Management emphasized that to have decent yields on grapes, you need to have some way of keeping the wildlife off the vines. “They can cause severe economic damage on some types of grapes,” he said. “In the Finger Lakes, it does seem that the pressure from these pests can vary greatly from one year to the next.”