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Field Day for Sustainable Vineyards

Bees, sprays and pests will star in Sonoma County event

by Jane Firstenfeld
sustainable field day
Mark Griffin is the vineyard manager for Napa Valley Reserve near Calistoga, Calif. Napa Valley Reserve was one of the first certified Bee Friendly Farms.
Forestville, Calif.—Harvest is pending, and the Sonoma County Winegrowers are inviting grapegrowers to learn about the latest advances in sustainable vineyard technology. With co-sponsors Santa Rosa Junior College and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, SCW is hosting its annual Sustainable Winegrowing Field Day at SRJC’s Shone Farm in Forestville on Aug. 8.

Some of the presenters provided Wines & Vines with exclusive previews of their offerings. See the complete agenda and registration information below.

Bee there, bee aware
Honeybees, essential for pollination, are finding it more difficult to land a square meal in California farmlands, according to Kathy Kellison of Partners for Sustainable Pollination. Kellison will speak about “bee-friendly farming” including honeybee health issues, agricultural practices to improve their health, bee gardens in vineyards and making landscapes bee-friendly.

Vineyards are natural havens for honeybees, and these beneficial insects can thrive in a symbiotic relationship with vines and cover crops. “Beekeepers do not have the resources to own enough land to provide their bees with natural sources of pollen from plants,” Kellison explained.
    More to learn

    The morning’s program is packed with related topics:

    7:30 a.m. Registration and check-in
    8 a.m. Welcome by Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission
    8:10 a.m. IPM Season Highlights –Laura Breyer, Breyer IPM Vineyard Service

    8:40 a.m. Pesticide Laws & Regulations Update and Update on European Grapevine Moth–Sue Ostrom, Sonoma County Ag Commissioner's office
    9:25 a.m. Growers’ reducing pesticide use and increasing efficiency with modern spray technology—Jeffrey Zick, Unti Vineyards, Lipco sprayer; Jim Cuneo, Robert Young Vineyards, presenting the On-Target Electrostatic Sprayer
    10:00 a.m. Break—refreshments provided; parking lot display.
    10:30 a.m. Fungicide Resistance Management and Prevention for Grapevine Diseases–Dr. Doug Gubler, UC Extension Plant Pathologist
    11:30 a.m. Bee Friendly Farming—Kathy Kellison, Partners for Sustainable Pollination
    12 noon Karissa Kruse wrap-up, followed by lunch.

    Attendance is free to all, but preregistration is required. Register online prior to Aug. 2.

    The organizers have applied for 2.75 hours of continuing education units with 0.5 hours of Laws and Regulation credit.

“Access to pesticide-free sources of pollen is a limiting factor to both the health of honey bees and the beekeeping industry, which in turn threatens predictable pollination services to growers.

“As a result of a sub-standard diet, bees are less able to cope with pests, pesticides and pathogens. Even without these stresses, research has shown that without a balanced diet, the longevity of the honeybee life is shortened,” Kellison explained.

Her organization works to increase awareness about this issue and find win/win solutions with vineyards and other working lands. “Beekeepers could have permission to place their colonies between pollination contracts and access open land near vineyards. Perhaps in the dormant months, they could take advantage of ‘bee helpful cover crops’: mustards, clovers, buckwheat, etc.,” Kellison suggested.

Another potential benefit: “Vineyard owners most assuredly would find a very grateful beekeeper providing some incredibly delicious honey, which could be sold at a premium in tasting rooms, further celebrating the story of the land,” she said.

Fungus fighting
Dr. Doug Gubler, University of California extension plant pathologist, follows fungus and treatment year-round. “Flowering-up this kind of lecture is hard,” he acknowledged.

The information is essential for sustainable grapegrowing, though, and progress is ongoing. “The risk-assessment model will give better disease control and save applications of fungicide. We also have shown that the fungus is not nearly as negatively affected by high temperatures as we thought. Also, there are some new chemistries for control,” he said.
Gubler will discuss fungicides used in grapevine disease control, including options for both Botrytis bunch rot and powdery mildew. He’ll also address eradication of powdery mildew, specifically what products are safe to use, fungicide resistance (what is it), products to prevent, manage or mitigate resistance—including those products with multiple sites of action (on and around the vine).

Attendees will also learn why and how environmental conditions contribute to fungicide resistance expression.

Moth quarantine continues
As of July 2, only 40 European Grapevine Moths (EGVM) were found in California—all of them in Napa County. Although none have been seen in Sonoma County since early 2011, a sliver of the county directly adjacent to Napa is still under quarantine, according to Sue Ostrom, chief deputy agr icultural commissioner and a speaker at the Sustainable Winegrowing Field Day. Maps of the quarantine area may be found on the commissioner’s website.

Growers and winemakers must remain alert and prepared. “We are approaching winegrape harvest in Sonoma County. There are still requirements for moving grapes out of the quarantined area that need to be followed during harvest,” Ostrom stressed.

“Wineries in Sonoma County receiving grapes from a quarantine area must notify the Agricultural Commissioner’s office 24 hours before the grapes are to arrive at the winery by calling (707) 565-3219. They must also have the appropriate compliance agreement. Wineries receiving grapes from areas under quarantine must handle the grapes, equipment and green waste appropriately to prevent the spread of this destructive pest,” she said, warning that ag inspectors will be checking throughout harvest to ensure that quarantine requirements are followed.

The agricultural commission has made it simpler for Sonoma County growers to submit pesticide-use reports online through its website, Ostrom reported. Once a grower is issued a username and password, “They can go to our website and access the online use reporting system,” she said. The system collects the same information as the paper reports, with dropdown lists and automatic filling of address information help to make filling out the online forms easier.  Find information here. The page includes a user’s guide and links to YouTube video demonstrations.

Let us spray
On the topic of pesticide application, grapegrower Jeffrey Zick of Unti Vineyards will demonstrate a sprayer that has served him well. “I have used a Lipco Tunnel recycling sprayer for more than six years, five in Pennsylvania and one here. I am convinced that it is an amazing tool for growers,” he said.

“Whether you farm conventionally, organically or sustainably, it can reduce costs of spray material and reduce time in both spraying and mixing and travel time back to the fill site,” Zick explained.

The sprayer is versatile throughout the growing season, no matter what you’re spraying, he said. “Early season we can recover, re-filter and re-spray around 70% of our material. With a full canopy, we recover about 30%. It has saved us lots of time, money and effort.”

Zick cited additional advantages: Less operator exposure, frees up the operator for other vineyard tasks, creates less wear and tear on equipment and less soil compaction.

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