Although humans are cultivating grapes since ancient times, growing grapes is not an easy job. A lot of knowledge is required by growers, especially to produce premium quality grapes. One vineyard activity is particularly “tricky” for growers, and that’s the protection of grapevines against pests and diseases. Which growers often refer to as spraying of grapevines. Many winegrowers are looking for the best possible way to protect grapevines that is efficient and at the same time economically and environmentally acetable and thus sustainable.
Grapevines are, like any other plant species, exposed to environmental influences, diseases, and pests. While some can threaten grapevines’ existence and production capability, others harm vines only occasionally and to a minor extent. Pest controls required to produce healthy grapes differs based on vineyard location, vine variety, and weather. While some growers don’t have a hard time protecting the grapes, others struggle, especially as climate changes are bringing unpredictable weather patterns.
To protect grapevines against environmental influences, as well as pests and diseases, growers have to rely on findings from different industries such as chemistry, biology, plant physiology, and mechanical technology. As grapevines can be affected by living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) factors that disrupt the key vines processes, such as photosynthesis, respiration, transportation of water and nutrition, growth, reproduction, etc., vines need to be protected accordingly.
Vineyard Integrated Pest Management
Several traditional and modern techniques exist that winegrowers can use to protect grapes. Usually, a combination of several methods gives the best results. One of the most economically efficient and environmentally friendly approaches to protect grapevines against pests and disease is Integrated pest management (IPM), which includes several direct and indirect pest control methods.
Indirect methods are:
- variety selection,
- pruning methods,
- land selection, etc.
While direct methods are:
- physical (mechanical control – tillage, mulching, flooding; thermal control; electromagnetic control),
- bio-technical (use of sexual confusion, food traps,…),
- biological (use of predators, parasitoids, pathogens, and competing pests) and
- chemical (use of plant protection products) control
Integrated pest management reduces the negative impact on human health and the environment while still enabling the production of high-quality grapes, free of pests, in an economically sustainable way. Namely, vineyards represent a habitat for many living organisms, and you only want to control the ones that cause the negative economic impact.
Steps to optimize sustainable vineyard pest control
Integrated pest management can be divided into several steps that winegrowers can follow to optimize pest management control that are linked together.
The first step is the detection of injuries and symptoms followed by identification of the causative pest (step 2). The suppression of pests is more efficient when the population is smaller and, therefore, more manageable.
After identifying the pests, it’s time to monitor pests’ development and environment (step 3) since most grapevine diseases and pests depend on in-vineyard environmental conditions.
Based on observed conditions, the critical timing of infection can be estimated to act on time (step4), to for example spray on time. To make winegrowers’ lives easier, several decision support systems have been developed over the years to advise when to take preventive actions against vine diseases, based on the weather data and vines pathogen development. One such system is eVineyard that advises winegrowers on when to take preventative measures against several different vine diseases based on the weather data, pathogen, past vineyard activities, and the vineyard characteristics.
The next step (step 5) is to select the best method and tool to protect grapevines. Above we have already pointed out some direct methods to control pests and diseases. Depending on the hazard, winegrowers choose the most appropriate method or combination of them. Often winegrowers rely on bio-technical or chemical control (spraying of grapevines).
After the grapevine protection, it’s crucial to follow yet another step, and that’s recording and evaluating (step 6) the applicability of the protection method. Without evaluation and analysis, no improvement can be made.
Sustainable vineyard pest control consists of several indirect and direct methods that only together can provide good protection of grapevines against environmental influences, as well as pests and disease. Thus spraying represents only a part of pest control management strategy. Relying solely on spraying with plant protection products is not economically and environmentally justified. By following the six steps of Integrated Pest Management, winegrowers can optimize pest management control.
Featured image: Photo by Jerusha van Vliet