Oh my, such a lot has happened in just one month. It seems only yesterday that I was scouring the dormant canes looking for signs of budburst.

Well that worked didn’t it. In exactly a month we seem to have gone from 2 buds to 3/4 full canopy. The dry and warmest October on record has seen the vines shoot away. Thank goodness we have access to irrigation water. I can’t imaging what those without water must be fearing. The dry Spring has seen many of the wheat crops in the district cut for hay. It could be that we are in for an early season.
Flowering is now underway and we look forward to berry-set.

In the meantime there is always something to play on your mind. Events can get in the way of seeing this wonderful early growth and flowering translate into a fruitful harvest. The monsoon rains from the Kimberly’s have found their way to us. Last night we received the first of what is forecast to be 20-50mm of rain over the next couple of days. This is a dangerous time for mildew on the vines.

The rule of thumb for Mildew growth is 10:10:24

10 mm of rain
10 Deg C minimum temperature
Over a 24 hour period

The type of mildew we are on the lookout for is Downy Mildew. Downy mildew is fungal like disease that is specific to grapevines which requires particular weather conditions to establish and infect. It can attack all green tissue, which include the underside of leaves, shoots and flowers. Downy mildew can be extremely devastating if infections are permitted to establish early, especially before flowering.
We take two approaches to reducing the risk of Downy Mildew, canopy management and preventative sprays. Canopy management is designed to let the vines dry rapidly after rain to reduce the potential infection period. We use training wires to keep the canes off the group and to open up the canopy. This is known as VPS (vertical shoot positioning) and also has other benefit of allowing good spray penetration and exposing the fruit to sunlight (but that is for later).

Preventative sprays are a fungicide (we use a copper based spray) which are sprayed onto the vines before infection conditions occur. So yesterday morning and the previous evening we gave the vineyard a good spray. Being small, we take a reactive approach to spraying. We keep a watch on the weather forecasts and only spray if conditions are threatening. Large vineyards usually have a programmed spray regime as they would not be able to spray their whole vineyard at such short notice.

But of course the rains are also predicted to include thunderstorms and POSSIBLE HAIL. Ten minutes of hail can bring the whole season to an abrupt end.

We’ll see what the day brings…

Aerial view of the vineyard

Aerial view of the vineyard

On a happier note, working in the vineyard always brings unexpected joys. Earlier in the week as was finishing off the de-suckering and lifting the first training wire and I heard a bird fly out from the canopy. The first time it happened I ignored it and kept focused on the task at hand, but when it happened again shortly after I decided to investigate. To my delight I found a small nest with 4 eggs in it. Hopefully they will hatch and the parents will have to find lots of bugs and caterpillars to feed their hungry mouths.

A nice surprise in the vines

A nice surprise in the vines

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