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Mark Chien's Wine Grape Information for the Region

Notes from the newsletter follow.
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  • Comments from the field
  • How to treat a frosted shoot
  • New Grape Grower Workshop
  • PA Grape and Wine Research Meeting: May 23 State College, PA
  • Developing a Vineyard Labor Force
  • Webinars: Intrarow Cover Crops & Other Practices to Alter Vine Growth and Canopy Architecture; Vineyard Floor Management: May 10, 3-4:30pm.
    Contact Libby Tarleton, Cornell Viticulture Extension at or call 631-727-3595
Comments from the field:
 "The grand period of growth will arrive quickly and you should be ready with the necessary labor to sucker, shoot thin and position, lift wires and remove leaves (toss in spraying and weed control). End of May and June can be frantic but if you get the canopy right now, it will make life oh-so much easier for the rest of the season. Try to get as much done now as possible while it’s still cool. Be ready with the spray program. 
Leaves may look yellowish-green from “spring fever” which is mild nitrogen or potassium deficiency due to cool soils but once the heat arrives they will likely color up again. 
Scout for mite damage and next up on the bug calendar are grape berry moth and Japanese beetles."
How to treat a frosted shoot:
"A question from a grower came in about how to treat a frosted shoot. . . if the shoot is not dead to the very base, should he wait and hope for a lateral to replace the damaged shoot or remove the primary shoot and force the secondary.  
I queried Tony Wolf and Kevin Ker, two top frost and winter injury experts and both agreed that, to start, it’s probably best to wait until after frost season ends (in SE PA we have 2 more weeks to endure), and then make a judgment call according to the quality and extent of what is actually growing, i.e. selecting and thinning to the best and most viable shoot.  No matter which shoot ends up growing back, it will probably be less fruitful so a yield loss, though highly variable and unpredictable, can be expected. Otherwise, management practices should remain pretty much the same." 
New Grape Grower Workshop: 13 June in Lehigh Valley: New and prospective wine grape vineyard growers and owners can learn all about commercial vineyard planning, design and development at this new grape grower workshop at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus near Allentown, PA.

Topics include grape varieties and rootstocks, grape marketing, vineyard economics, vineyard site selection, design and development through the first year, including training and trellis systems, grapevine nurseries, planting, grape diseases, insects and weeds management. Students will get a comprehensive, if not superficial overview of what is needed to develop a commercial wine vineyard. 

The meeting is co-sponsored by Penn State Cooperative Extension and the USDA Smart Farming program. Instructors include Fritz Westover, viticulture specialist at Texas A&M Agrilife (Fritz comes from the Allentown area and went to Penn State), Scott Guiser, horticulture educator in Bucks County, and Mark Chien, viticulture extension educator. Tianna DuPont is the regional sustainable agriculture extension educator and meeting coordinator. Full information is available in the meeting brochure, or you can go directly to meeting registration.

Vineyard Labor: When I talk with wine growers the topic of labor (or the lack of it) often comes up, or if it’s available, poor quality and reliability. It’s a problem for our wine industry. Yet experienced and skilled labor is essential for the production of high quality grapes and wines. Brian Dickerson is the manager of Mica Ridge Vineyard and has found a creative solution to his labor problem by training and employing Amish workers in his vineyard. The process involved a partnership between county government, Penn State and, most of all, his own initiative and work. The result is an Amish vineyard crew that, at least so far, is doing outstanding work at MRV. Read the story about Brian and his crew.