Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vineyard Update - June 2011

June 26 I checked on the vines at the vineyard.  The canes on many of the varieties are 1-2 feet long.  The oldest vines, Ravat 34 and Leon Millot look good.  They are now going into their fourth summer and the Ravat 34 (pictured below) have nice flower clusters many have two per shoot. 

The Leon Millot have finally shown some nice flower clusters on most of the vines (pictured below).  These vines were grown in pots the first year then planted to the vineyard in the fall.  I believe that the root system does not get the same opportunity to branch out this first year when grown in pots as it would have if they were grown in the ground.  As such they are a bit behind in growth for fourth year vines, stunted would be the word.  However, they are doing good this year.


The Blattners are also doing well this year.  The petite milo is the best of the group with a cluster or two on nearly every cane and excellent growth.  The Cab Foch is tentative as is the Cab Libre but there are a few clusters on the vines and the growth is good.  We should get some idea of ripening times this year.  There are also some clusters on the ortega and while the growth is poor we should get some idea of ripening time.

Moving Grape Vines in Canada

Last year I had several Marechal Joffre vine cuttings and a few Acadie Blanc cuttings treated in a hot water treatment to destroy any potential pests that may exist on the vines.  The plant material originated from Nova Scotia and was moved to Edmonton.  By law to move these cutting further west to British Columbia they need to be treated chemically or by way of the hot water treatment to kill any pests.  As it turns out the plant material I had treated was poor, and it did not produce any viable plants.  So I did not have to move any plants last year.  These are the rules that one must follow under the Plant Protection Act which is administered and enforced by the Canadian food Inspection Agency (CFIA). 

Let me say first off if you plan to obtain plant material of any kind from another province than the one you are going to move the material to, then you should read this act and familiarize yourself with the regulations.  Reading this Act you find out quite quickly that it is perhaps one of the most powerful federal acts that provides the CFIA inspectors with tremendous enforcement powers.  This is good - it is important that plant material that could be infected with disease or insect pest is prevented from moving from one region to the other, or from outside Canada into Canada, and this is the fundamental reason for the existence of the Plant Protection Act. 

Historically one has to simply look at the west Kootenay region as it pertains to producing fruit, specifically cherries.  The region was known at one time for producing some of the best cherry fruit in North America.  There were cherry orchards abound in the region.  It is believed that sometime in the early part of the 1900 a virus was introduced into the area from foreign plant material that was brought to Canada.  This virtually wiped out the Cherry farms in the Kootenay region within a decade.  Looking backwards to move forward one can see the importance of the Plant Protection Act and the work of the CFIA.

British Columbia is virtually free from many of the vineyard pests that infect eastern Canadian vineyards and for this reason plant material, including cuttings, are banned from being shipped to BC unless they have been treated.  This ban includes the provinces of  Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfound Land, Ontario, and Quebec.  As best I can determine New Brunswick is still ok - for now.  But if pest or disease begin to become a preeminent feature in New Brunswick vineyards then I would expect the ban to be extended to that province as well.  This year I obtained some plant material from Nova Scotia, these are the KW96-2 or Evangeline as we call it.  In order to move these to the test vineyard in BC I had to get them treated.

The process to get the cuttings treated and then a movement certificate is quite simple. 
1) First look up your local CFIA office and contact them to see what the rules are for moving plant material from where your are acquiring it from to the place it will be planted.
2)If the material requires treatment, the CFIA inspector will advise you of the different methods - basically there is a hot water treatment or chemical (malathion) dip.
3)You arrange for a time and place to meet with the CFIA inspector so they are present when you treat the plant material (cuttings). 
4)On the time a date of the meeting, you treat the material in the presence of the CFIA inspector and they provide you documentation of the treatment of the cuttings.
5)You then propagate the material in a steril environment with no contact with local plants or soil and in a medium of 50/50 perlite/peatmoss.  The perlite/peatmoss is allowed to be transported across borders but soil is not.
6)When you want to move the material, in my case once the cutting break bud and have some roots forming, you can arrange another meeting with the CFIA inspector to come inspect the plants. 
7)When the inspector arrives, if they deem that your plants look healthy and free of disease or pests, they will give you another document (Movement certificate) that allows you to move the material to its final destination within a certain time frame - about 7-10 days.
8)You then move the plant material to it's final destination, in this case from Alberta to BC, and a CFIA inspectors will often meet you at the final destination to confirm the movement was completed.

The cost for CFIA to certify they material is about $55 for the treatment and $7 for the movement certificate.

The CFIA does an incredible job at this and they have a huge responsibility to ensure the safety of our crops resources.  What I found in dealing with the CFIA in Alberta and BC last year is that they are very willing to help, flexible in as much as they can be to make the process easy for you, and will bend over backwards to accommodate you.  From making the original phone call, the process was easy to set up and go through.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Edmonton Grapes Spring 2011

Fascinating what the weather and climate does to affect the grape vine.  Last fall we had an abnormal freeze event on the 15th of September.  The overnight low was -6.5 in our backyard and the grapes on the St. Croix vines that were two weeks from being ripe were frozen solid that night (see link to Frost Ends 2010 season).  The grapes were lost having only attained 12-14 brix.  Come spring I was looking forward to a new year, new crop and perhaps normal weather without these 1 in 30 year freeze events.  As it turns out the freeze from last fall did more damage that ending the 2010 crop year.  The vines were not nearly ready for that kind of cold and the freeze damaged the buds on the canes that would be this years crop.  About 70% of the buds were killed off and many canes did not even break bud.  You can see from the picture below that the right side of the vine has some growth with canes about 12 inches long now each with 1 to 2 nice flower clusters, but very little growth elsewhere.  Interestingly I decided to leave the vine to see if it would push secondary buds and while at least 3 weeks later than the bud break on the right side of the vine, there are several buds that have just broke in the last 2 weeks and have 2-3 inches of growth now.  Good thing to wait before pruning.


Even worse was the Edelwiese, not a single bud pushed on last years canes and the vine has died back to the ground.  There is new growth from the base and that's it. I don't think this is winter damage as the cold we received was in the -35 range but all the canes were on the ground as we did the year before and there was at least 2 feet of snow cover. 

What further confirms that it probably wasn't the winter lows that killed the buds but the hard freeze in September 2010 was that the Acadie Blanc vine that is growing against the house, came through the winter with excellent bud survival.  It did not suffer the detrimental cold of the September 2010 freeze as it was against the house and a few degrees warmer than out in the yard.  But the winter lows it would have experienced would have been very similar to the St. Croix and Edelweise, yet it is know as being less hardy than those two vines.  Also interesting is we have nice flower clusters on the Acadie Blanc, 2 clusters per shoot.  It will be interesting to see how the vine and grapes mature in this climate.  See photos below (Acadie vine and Acadie flower cluster)


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bud Break 2011

Having a look around the vineyard on May 19th I see that some of the grapes are budding out and others are on there way.  We are a few days later than normal but a few days earlier than last year.  Again, the Ravat 34 looks great, approximately 90-95% bud survival (photo below).  The Leon Millot shows some winter damage with some vines showing bud survival between 40% and 70%.  The Castel is looking great, excellent bud survival and emergence given they are just coming into their second year.  The Agria died back to the ground again and I've pulled it out.  It is clear that the conditions at my site are less than optimal for this variety.  The Ortega is doing a bit better with some bud survival and the Regent is similar perhaps even a bit better.  Of the blattners the Petite Milo looks the best, with about 50% bud survival, the Cab Foch and Cab Libre pretty much died back to the ground.  Some of the Acadie are beginning to bud out however, as these were planted in the fall, I expect most of this years growth to be new shoots from the base of the plants.

Looking at the past winter (2010/2011) temperature.  There was a cold snap in late November that saw the temperature plunge to -22c and again another cold snap in February that went as low as -21c.  The winter temperature pattern is that of an on-going freeze-thaw cycle of 10 to 14 days. The information from the data logger shows the cycle starts with the temperature cooling off over a 5 to 7 day period then warming up again over 5-7 days to complete the cycle.  The freeze part of the cycle has temperatures that typically range from -2 to -10 and the thaw part of the cycle sees temperatures in the +6 to 0 range.  This pattern starts at the end of November and continues on to the end of February.  Below is the Oct-Dec 2011 temperatures - click image for larger view;

This freeze thaw cycle may be causing damage to the buds on the vines as the buds may be forced in an out of dormancy.  There is alot of snow in the winter at the vineyard site (February 2011 photo below).  Mid winter snow is about 3 feet and could provide some protection from the freeze - thaw cycle so were going to lower the fruit wire on the Leon Millot to 24" to see how that affects the bud survival next year.

We also added some fertilizer and micro-nutrients this spring as some vines showed deficiency last year. This can also have an affect on the hardiness of the vines and bud survival rates.  The fertilizer is a basic 8-8-8 blend, and the micro-nutrient amendment is Scotts Micromax. 

Overall, the vineyard is looking good this year.  In June, we'll see how the vines leaf out and the fruitfulness of the buds.