Rain, Rain, Glorious Rain!

Last spring, we were blessed with an abundance of rain, Texas was officially out of the drought status for the first time in over 8 years! For farmers and fellow grape growers this was amazing! Our well was finally producing at a faster rate, and we had to irrigate less because Mother Nature was at it in full force. Now with this blessing came a major lesson for Good Vibe Vineyards, another one to put down in the ‘Lesson’s Learned’ category of this blog – BLACK ROT. Two small words that bear very big consequences.

Black rot, by definition, (Guignardia bidwellii (Ellis)) is a potentially devastating fungal disease that can infect the leaves, shoots, berries and cluster stems of grapes.[1] This devastating fungal disease is brought on by excess moisture, combined with heat and humidity. Texas weather is a perfect recipe for this disaster. It takes as little as six hours for the Black Rot develop after a good rain and humid conditions. Six hours! And only 24 hours of persistent leaf wetness for the spores to germinate and infect other areas of the vineyard. For people that manage their vineyard from afar, like we do, that is distressing. And to top it all off, we are still learning. Sure, Erik has been attending classes and has learned about various diseases and what to do for them, and we have great intentions about doing everything right, but the reality is there is so much to know and understand about the fundamentals of grape growing. We were rejoicing in the fact that we finally had a rainy season after suffering the first several years in drought conditions and this one snuck up on us very quickly.

Jacto tower sprayer extraordinaire 

Jacto tower sprayer extraordinaire 

Now, black rot is not always evident in the early part of the growing season. In fact, your berries will typically develop as normal at first, you will see tight beautiful clusters, and look forward to a bountiful harvest only to find the seemingly perfect berries shriveled into raisins somewhere in the middle to the end of the growing season. These shriveled berries are known as mummies. This is exactly how it went for us this past July. We had gone out to the vineyard to net the fruit (please refer to previous lesson learned blog on netting early) only to discover that our once beautiful berries were now mostly raisins (mummies). I cannot begin to explain the level of disappointment we felt. We decided at that point not to waste our time netting the fruit and left it for the birds and the bees to enjoy.

What we learned:

1.      Rain is a blessing, but can also bring with it an environment for disease development.

2.      Spray timing is critical! Early in the season and prior to bloom.

3.      Removing all the mummied fruit and burning it is essential so that the spores do not spread further throughout the vineyard.

4.      Sanitation is key as well. Sanitize your instruments that are used in the vineyard to avoid further contamination.

5.      Be thankful for the lessons Mother Nature provides us. We can’t change what is done, but we can learn from these valuable lessons and not repeat our mistakes.

This year we brought in the big guns and purchased a Jacto Tower Sprayer. We can do in as little as four hours what used to take us two to three days to accomplish with the handheld sprayer! It's a beautiful thing. We worked with Kyle Mayer from Mustang Equipment in Marble Falls and had an excellent experience. I highly recommend them! 

[1] https://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/newsletters/appellation-cornell/2014-newsletters/issue-17/managing-black-ro