Monday, June 8, 2009

Cancer Discovered In The Vineyard: Powdery Mildew

This is not funny. Really. It's as bad as the consequences of unsafe sex. There's a cancer in the vineyard. And it was as easy to prevent as eating broccoli, brushing a dog's teeth or using a condom.

Was it a result of playing golf on Sunday instead of vineyarding? Was it the revenge of the Three Priests for skipping Church? Did three weeks of unseasonably cool weather, thick fog and drizzle create ideal conditions for it?

There are simple rules in this life: eat your vegetables; check the dog's toes for foxtails; spray your vineyard. Two out of three ain't good enough.

At daybreak Monday Bluey & I went to the lower part of the vineyard where I hadn't been for a while and noticed a bunch of Petit Sirah with white frosting. I cut it off. Then noticed it on another bunch. Mission control, we have a problem: Powdery Mildew.

My experiment in not spraying the vineyard has been terminated with extreme prejudice.

The temperature stayed below 70 degrees today so the infestation did not spread, much. I should have been out in the vineyard holding hands this evening with my sweetheart watching the midsommar sunset and the full-moon rise but instead I was rushing to cut leaves to open up the canopy and scrambling to the top of the hill to fill a backpack sprayer with 4-gallons of water and X-amount of wettable sulphur. The directions said to apply 2 lbs. - 10 lbs. per acre of grapes and we have two acres planted but it doesn't say a thing about how many grams of sulphur to add per liter of water or how many ounces per gallon. So I took my best guess and stirred in the brown powder which disolved nicely in the water and put the sprayer on my back and pumped the handle to build pressure and nothing came out. What next? Momentarily deflated, but not defeated, I sent out an SOS to Coyote Karen to borrow her sprayer and I suggested to the Queen that we call Fidel to help us spray and she started singing her song:
That Fidel I am
That Fidel I am
I do not like that Fidel I am

And the Kabuki play continued about how it's her vineyard and if I think for a minute I have anything to do with it or if it's half-mine then she's leaving or "you should go to China" and she's carrying on about Fidel this (it's his fault the valves are leaking!) and Fidel that (he owes me $2,000 for the work he didn't do!) while the Man in the Moon is coming up and Bluey (bless his heart a dog without a tail) puts his stub between his legs and finds a corner to ride out the storm. This is why hurricanes have female names. Peace is restored when I lie that it's 100% her vineyard, pour her a glass of wine (instead of cutting her off) and promise not to call Fidel, that rascal.

The good news is that the mildew is located in the lower part of the vineyard and we can still save most of the Tempranillo, all of the Zinfandel and all of the Grenache. I have tasted award winning Tempranillo wine made from 3-year old San Diego vines and our vines are ready and willing to give us grape. Philosophically, my wanting to save the grapes is a good thing but if I loose them then I should just give them up because it's just a possession and possessions are temporary and in the end we're just ashes and the vines wither. I'm a mother with a baby inside and despite what the queen says it's my vineyard too and I'm fearful of a miscarriage and so I'm fighting.

Questions: If a bunch of grapes have a little bit of Powdery Mildew can they be saved? How much wettable sulphur powder should I add per gallon?


Vinogirl said...

50 gals water per acre.
6 oz surfactant (very important)
2-5 lbs wettable sulphur

The water and surfactant eradicate mycelium.
The sulphur, as it sublimates, kills spores and prevents colonisation by such spores.

As to small amounts, this is when I can hear Vinomaker tell me that my two semesters of algebra really do have a useful application in everyday life...or use a calculator. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the small amounts just spray the entire vineyard every 10-14 days, now through July 4th.

For the already affected fruit, one word Kaligreen...use it right now!

Jeff said...

Are you sure it’s mildew? If it were me, I’d use JMS Stylet Oil (iradicant) instead of sulfur (protectant). I’m sure the sulfur will help and then follow it up.
I read your article on the web, you should be a writer! Great stuff.If you need Stylet Oil, I have some and a sprayer that works!
Keep in touch……….

Craig Justice said...

After another bout of spraying at dawn this morning, I find my eyes & throat are irritated. Not a good sign. Where can I get a gas mask?

Jeff K. said...

I got mine recently at Home Depot in the tools section. They have a double cylinder for about $25.00

Jeff K. said...

This weather sure has been different from last year! The government must be mucking with it. I need to be more vigilant in my spraying, this weather is prime for the powdery stuff!

Merlot Mike said...

We have a 50+/- gallon tank mounted on a trailer with a long spray hose on a reel … we pull the unit behind the Gator … much more powerful than the back pack sprayers. Come down … take a look … see if it can be used at your place from the road and adequately reach all of your vines.

Vinogirl said...

Craig, sorry I haven't been online much the past week. Still trying to get little vineyard extension in, work, cook, shop, clean...oh, and sleep!
Watched your little Youtube clip. Spraying is hard with that type of sprayer but my initial impression was that your mix may be still off, doesn't look like you have enough water in there and you are using a surfactant, right? Also you are concentrating the spray directly onto the grapes and the top surface of the leaf while the underside of the leaf is missing the spray. The underside of the leaf is very important. When the PM sporalates the spores reach the underside of the basal leaves and colonise there, so ultimately the underside is way more important than the top. Like I said, using that type of sprayer is difficult, the water droplets are huge and the force can blast the leaf against the clusters and act like a little raincoat...but in this case it doesn't seem like your clusters are missing out on anything! (A side note, if all that sulphur does not volatise, be careful of excess sulphur in your fermentations).
Two years ago, we invested in a
...night and day!!!
Nice to hear the dog bark, by the way, and it looks like you have a beautiful vineyard.

Craig Justice said...

It took close to 12 days to finish the first round of spraying with wettable sulphur and Kaligreen. We lost about 50% of the fruit in the Petit-Sirah block and about 25% in the Grenache block. Most of the Zinfandel, Tempranillo & Aglianico blocks were saved, and it looks like we may have much fruit to play with. Frank Bons came out on Friday, June 26th, and sprayed the whole vineyard in just under 2 hours with a 300-ft hose and a large tank in this truck. He sprayed with Rubigan, a "systemic" agent. On Saturday the 26th the temperatures rose close to 85 degrees, and on Sunday the 27th they may have hit 90, setting the mildew back. We're now into July and hitting close to 85 degrees today and the mildew seems to be under control. I posted some videos of the spraying and damage on our You Tube site: Next step, thinning fruit. Then about a month or so from now nets. While the mildew is under control, the gophers are not, and wait, what's that sound coming from underneath the fig tree?

Craig Justice said...

The "silver bullet": Organic JMS Stylet Oil. We used it this year (2010) for spot spraying mildew prone areas. Seems to work.