Bunch Grape Vineyard COVID-19 Chores March/April

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Many of you have finished pruning with the exception of the early bud breaking cultivars, and spring is right around the corner. In the Yadkin Valley and the Piedmont, Chardonnay should be breaking buds right around this time, while in the mountains it’s probably 1-2 weeks later. Merlot and Cab franc are also right around the corner. Bud swell has picked up in a lot of cultivars right now in the Piedmont and foothills. 

Please be aware that there is still a larger risk of frost nights until mid – end of April! Do not re-plant or plant until the chance of last frost is over. 

With the season starting, following tasks are coming up in the next weeks:

    • Finish your delayed pruning activities if you haven’t already
    • try to thin out shoots if you have replants that are already breaking
    • Disease Management!
    • Insect Management (PD management!)
    • Weed Management
  • Replanting / New plantings AFTER the last frost, not before

We have compiled some important bunch grape chores for March/April 2020, and also tried to address possible vineyard and viticulture questions regarding operations under the current COVID-19 regulations. 

Carry on Documentation for agriculture personnel: 

Have every staff and labor worker carrying this document as method to notify law enforcement or anyone else that a person is involved in the essential agriculture industry. Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF)

Viticulture Management Poster:

Please download UGA’s Viticulture Management Poster (PDF), an overview on important disease, pest and weed management tasks in Southeastern vineyards.

Bunch Grape Chores:

Regular chores:

  • Cultural Management: Finish delayed pruning in the next 1-2 weeks. In the Piedmont, early cultivars such as Chardonnay already are at bud-break. Shot thin if you have time.
  • Disease Management: Start Mancozeb applications and use Mancozeb as your backbone disease management program. Apply Mancozeb shortly after bud break. Please see The Small Fruits Bunch Grape IPM Guide for further information.
  • Botrytis Fungicide Resistance Management: The UGA fungicide resistance diagnostic lab in Tifton is currently not taking samples, due to COVID-19 closures. While still about a month away, I would like to share the following recommendations made by Dr. Guido Schnabel (Clemson University) and Dr. Phillip Brennan (UGA) for the control of Gray-Mold: Primarily use multisites such as thiram and captan if you make a specific early season Botrytis application. Use single site FRAC Codes when infection pressure increases later in season,  prior to major rain events. Do not use the same FRAC code twice in a row and not more than twice in a season. Do not use FRAC1 and FRAC11 for Botrytis control (too many resistance issues). If you are using FRAC7/11 mixtures, preferably use Merivon and Luna Sensation over Pristine. Do not apply any product containing fludioxonil (FRAC 12, Switch, Miravis Prime) more than 2 to 3 times per season. Try to avoid QoIs (Abound, Pristine) as much as possible.
  • Pest Management: Early applications of Admire Pro or recommended neonicotinoid insecticides (e.g.Venom (dinotefuran) and Clutch/Belay (clothianidin)) as a soil drench can help to mitigate the spread and infection with Pierces Disease. Please consult The Small Fruits Bunch Grape IPM Guide for detailed information. If you have PD, it is recommended to use early systemic insecticide applications.
  • Weed Management: Make a Glyphosate application to reduce under-vine weed pressure. Keep the row middles and the grass around the vineyard mowed short to reduce insect vector pressure. Please consult The Small Fruits Bunch Grape IPM Guide for detailed information. 
  • Scouting: Now is a good time to start scouting for potential problems in the vineyard. Make scouting a weekly habit. 

Covid-19 Questions:

  • If you are in need of local labor, it might be easy to find. Many people have lost their jobs over the past two weeks. Please also use the NC Farm Link  and contact your local extension agent if you are in need of labor.
  • H2-A workers and workforce in larger farms: While you might be able to secure workforce for March and parts of April, it is estimated that only a fraction of the H2-A workforce will be able to get be ready when the season starts. It is the US State Departments intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions. Secretary Pompeo, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview.  Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility. Please visit the Government Homepage for H2-A visas. The USDA has also set up a special email to address any concerns regarding H2-A labor: aglabor@usda.gov
  • How to keep labor and public safety:  Following precautions should be taken to keep your labor force and the public safe: Make sure to separate labor staff according to current public safety standards. Keep always 6 feet distance between people. Make sure that everyone washes or sanitizes hands frequently. Have plenty of gloves and hand sanitizer readily available. Ask people with disease symptoms to leave. Put up signage at your vineyard to keep public out while workers are in.
  • Please find more resources on labor and staff management under NC State Covid-19 Farming Resources

Important Resources:

NC State COVID-19 Farming Resources (Homepage)

Viticulture Management Poster (PDF)

The Small Fruits Bunch Grape IPM Guide (PDF)

myIPM Smartphone App helps to manage diseases nd pests

Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF)