Protecting your vineyard grapes from the environment is a challenge that takes some cunning. Throughout the growing season you will want to ensure that your grapes are protected from disease as well as from pests like birds and insects, but also deer and other large grazing animals that may roam free where you live.
Fungus and Disease
There are several diseases that can harm the grapes in your vineyard. Some common ones are mildew, fungus and black rot, all forms of fungus and so fungicide is the most common cure. However the right cure is necessary for the right disease. Most disease is recognized by its effect on the vine leaves. Examine the plants in your vineyard regularly and once grapes are visible, inspect those too for signs of decay. For example, small yellow spots with dark brown centers could be signs of phomopsis cane. Generally, leaf discoloration, or spots on the leaves are signs of problems. You might also see a film over the leaf or the berries may show signs of rotting before they are ripened.
Insect Pest Control
Some of the most common insects that affect vineyards and threaten your grape production are moths, leafhoppers and beetles. The Berry Moth lays its eggs directly on the grapes. The young larvae eat their way through the center of your grapes, leaving tell-tale holes. Leafhoppers tend to accumulate on the underside of the vine leaf. Leafhoppers don’t do that much damage unless they become densely populated and then they can damage the crop. Rose chafers and Japanese beetles feed on the grape clusters as they mature on the vine.
You need to be as careful with your remedies as you are in detecting problems with your vineyard grapes, since grape growing is a delicate art. Seek expert advice if you suspect an insect problem. Many experts recommend treatment only when the infestation is severe. Vines can often withstand mild infestations.
Animal Pest Control
Perhaps the most serious threat for most grape growers are the birds. A flock of birds can wreak serious havoc on the small harvest of a hobbyist’s vineyard. The best protection against damage from birds is a physical barrier between the crop and the outside world. Netting will let in light and moisture, and allow the air to circulate around the grapes while protecting them from birds and other animals. Because of the way vines tend to grow along a trellis, it is a relatively easy project to install nets to protect your grapes. Make sure the nets are high enough that the birds can’t get to the grapes if the net sags in the wind or rain. Remember it’s not just grape eating birds that will flock to your vineyard but also birds in search of the insects that they might find there, so keeping your grapes insect free will also help to keep away the birds.
Other ideas include visual repellants, such as artificial hawks, scarecrows and shiny aluminum pie pans but none of these protect your vineyard as well as a physical barrier.
For deer and other grazers, the best protection is the use of odor repellents. Deer will graze on the vines themselves, the leaves and the grapes. They can devastate your crop if they are present in the area where you live. Hunting stores may be able to supply coyote scented products (coyotes hunt deer). Human scented products are also effective.
Once your vineyard is underway, keep your eyes open and your nose to the ground to spot unwanted pests and deal with them immediately to protect your grape crop.