Harvest’s done so it’s time to sit back and think about … the next harvest.
Dr Mike McCarthy, a Principal Scientist with the South Australian Research & Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA, said many growers are good at considering the immediate needs of their vines and soil, but sometimes fall down on things associated with spending money, whether it be maintenance or long-term planning.
These are Mike’s ‘top 10 tips’ for post-harvest activity.
1. Post-harvest nutrition
This is the number one priority as the vines are pretty run down after a long, hot summer and nutrients have been lost through leaching. It’s important to build up nutrient reserves in vines before they go into dormancy. The easiest way to do this is to inject the fertiliser into the drip system. Urea, calcium nitrate or mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) are often used.
2. Vineyard floor management
You also need to be thinking about how you are going to manage the vineyard floor leading into winter – are you going to put on mulch or an early season knockdown to control weeds on the under-vine bank? Will you plant an annual cover crop, sow a sward or put the sheep into the mid row?
3. Post-harvest irrigation
Growers who have already finished harvest, such as those in the Riverland and Hunter Valley, have quite a long period before dormancy so, if you’ve got water to spare, you should consider some post-harvest irrigation before dormancy to keep the foliage healthy for as long as possible and build up the vines’ reserves.
4. Soil salinity monitoring
This one is only for vineyards irrigating water of marginal quality, but if that’s you and you have any concerns, now is the time to be doing a bit of soil sampling because salinity levels are now at their peak before winter rain. Salinity is an increasingly important issue for growers and when you do things is the key.
5. Mite control
An increase in rust mite symptoms has been reported vineyards over the recent season. Take the time to map the worst affected sections of you block, so you know where to monitor in spring.
6. Irrigation system upgrades
This is an easy one to let slip, because next spring seems a long time away. Review your irrigation maintenance and consider any upgrades that may make your work easier and ultimately more productive. For example, do you need additional irrigation shifts to better manage irrigation during the inevitable heatwaves?
7. Trellis repairs
In a similar vein, what repairs need to be done to your trellis now that the machine harvester’s gone over it? The earlier you can order posts the better; they don’t arrive overnight. Get them in the ground before budburst.
8. Assess your canopy
Once you’ve finished harvest and you know your production in terms of tonnes per hectare, look at your block – in particular the canopy you’ve developed. Was there too much crop for the canopy or excessive canopy for the crop? That will give you some leads in terms of whether you need to adjust your pruning regime in the coming winter.
9. Eutypa dieback control
In regions where it’s an issue, identify which blocks you will be reworking for Eutypa dieback control and determine what approach you will take.
10. Vineyard economics
And finally, think about whether you need to make some hard decisions in relation to uneconomic blocks. Why waste money pruning and preparing what you really should be mothballing or redeveloping?
The take home message really is ‘just because you did it last year and the year before doesn’t mean you should necessarily do the same this year’. Now is the time to start planning some changes.