Rowdy Bolen – Winegrower – Hockley County
With no late spring freezes being recorded in the Texas High Plains AVA this year, winegrowers are looking at another great start to 2016. Similarly in 2015, winegrowers did not experience a late spring freeze with led to a record harvest of over 11,000 tons of winegrapes being delivered to Texas wineries.
This spring has been a little different than 2015 though. Last year, we had quite a bit more rainfall which helped fill our soil profiles for the upcoming year. This year, we’ve received about half the rainfall for the area. Most growers have already put out fertilizer with their irrigation and have begun spraying fungicides to keep their plants healthy and disease free.
One thing that grapes need is water but not nearly as much as you’d think. Grapes prefer to live in well drained sandy loam soils where the roots stay wet but don’t get waterlogged. By inserting a fertilizer pump into the irrigation, farmers can supply needed nutrients directly to the plant roots without having to do much.
Fungicide spraying is a different animal. Fungicides are required to grow quality wine grapes and with the rains we’ve recently received, it’s necessary to get out in the field and take care of business. The most common form of disease we find in our area is Powdery Mildew. Powdery can wreck havoc on a young grape plant, causing sometimes unseen damage that will affect the taste and flavor of wine some 12-18 months after the vine has been infected. Bloom, when the grape clusters begin to flower, is the most susceptible time for powdery mildew in plants.
This year, the High Plains Winegrowers Association will host a “Spray Off” on June 21st where growers bring their tractor and fungicide sprayer to a vineyard and test their equipment. Growers will have a section in the vineyard where they will spray a unique “glow in the dark” solution. After the sun goes down, they’ll go in with black lights to determine coverage, precision and efficacy along with possible adjustments to be made. This is the first of it’s kind event on the High Plains and will provide an opportunity to make sure their equipment is hitting the mark.
The following day, June 22nd, a Vineyard Spraying & Management Classroom segment will be presented by Dr. Andrew Landers of Cornell University in New York. The event is sponsored by Agrilife, Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and High Plains Winegrowers and will feature topics on Canopy and Herbicide Sprayer designs, Sprayer Layout and Components, Nozzles & Droplets, Nozzle Selection & Calibration, Adjusting Sprayer for Improved Deposition, Pesticide Drift and Reduction, Safety and Reducing Operator Contamination & Exposure and Effective Vineyard Spraying and Management Precision. More info is available at www.highplainswinegrowers.org