By: Conor McCaney, Graduate Assistant, Department of Food Science & Technology
The winemaking process is a dynamic one: from crush, to fermentation, on to post fermentation cellar procedures, aging, and bottling. Each step along the way allows for the potential ingress of oxygen, whether wanted or not. While oxygen is considered by many to be the enemy of wine, this is not always the case. In fact proper use of enological oxygen at crucial steps in the winemaking process is paramount to wine development. That said, many winemakers dutifully aim to eliminate it from the process altogether particularly in partial tank headspace. Proper gassing regimens and selection of the correct gas for a particular application is something that many do not do well and fail to fully understand the principals at play. Managing proper inert gas procedures is tricky. Most protocols are generally arbitrary ones copied from bad information and the proliferation of poor techniques passed on anecdotally from winemaker to winemaker. In general it is a procedure that is often over looked and never given much thought. This usually means the use of a high pressure cylinder (most often nitrogen), and a ¼” or ½” hose that is allowed to run for an arbitrary amount of time, generally 15 to 20 minutes. The results are the improper use of inert gases from the failure to measure gas volumes delivered (using a flowmeter), monitoring results with the use of a dissolved oxygen meter, using an under or oversized delivery system and unsubstantiated cost analysis pertaining to gas type and volume needed.
Typical gas choices are: carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon. Most wineries choose to use carbon dioxide and nitrogen because they believe it provides the best cost-benefit in terms of oxygen displacement per unit cost. This is not the case. To understand this, we must first delve into some fundamental principles of gases. In the wine industry, we typically use gas by volume, either in standard cubic feet or molar volume delivered from a standard steel pressurized cylinder in which the gas is compressed. These gas volumes are usually measured at 25°C and 1 atm. If you happen to purchase gas by the pound it is necessary to divide the gas by its molecular weight before you can compare gases to one another. The approximate molecular weights are: 40 g/mole for argon (Ar), 44 g/mole for carbon dioxide (CO2), 28 g/mole for nitrogen (N2), and 29 g/mole for air. One mole of any of these gases measured at standard pressure (1atm) and temperature (25°C) occupies one molar volume, roughly equivalent to 22.4 liters, 5.92 gallons, or 0.8 standard cubic feet. Using the ideal gas law PV = nRT the behavior of gases can be described in which pressure and volume is a fixed proportion in relation to the number of moles of gas at absolute temperature. This indicates that gas molecules take up the same amount of space regardless of their mass when they are at the same temperature and pressure (Avogadro’s Law). Thus one mole of any gas contains the same number of molecules (i.e., 6.02 x 1023). This also indicates that the head space in a tank, barrel, or other container will fluctuate regularly throughout the day in response to temperature and pressure changes. Tanks that are kept outside experience greater temperature changes throughout the day compared to a tank kept inside at a constant temperature. Changes in barometric pressure and temperature can cause the headspace in a tank to pump 3% to 7% of its volume in and out daily. This ultimately means that the headspace in a tank is not a static system and could be constantly changing.
Air is roughly composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% argon, so in essence nitrogen is air without the oxygen. In any gassing procedure it is ideal to reduce the percentage of oxygen in the headspace to below 1% or even below 0.5% to inhibit the growth of aerobic microbes and prevent wine oxidation. The most commonly used gas in winemaking is nitrogen (N2) with a molecular weight (MW) of 28 g/mole making it moderately lighter (less dense) than air at 29 g/mole MW. Graham’s law of diffusion (also known as Graham’s law of effusion) states that the rate of effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass at constant temperature and pressure. This principle is often used to compare the diffusion rates of two gasses such as nitrogen and air. The diffusion rates of nitrogen and air are almost identical meaning that nitrogen does not provide adequate layering, but rather readily mixes with air and does not remain in contact with the wine surface for an extended period of time. This also means that in order to reduce the O2level from 21% to less than 1%, the headspace needs to be flushed with a volume of nitrogen that is five times the volume of the headspace. So if the tank has a 100 gallons of head space it would take 500 gallons of nitrogen to reduce the O2level from 21% to below 1%. The cost of nitrogen is approximately $0.05 per cubic foot (Praxair, Inc). However, because nitrogen requires five times the volume equivalents to reduce the O2percentage from 21% to less than 1%, the cost to gas a barrel (60 gallons) is $2.00, 100 gallons of headspace is $3.34 and 1,000 gallons of headspace is $33.42. This is significantly higher than the cost of using argon for the same O2reduction in the equivalent headspace volumes. This is why headspace gassing with nitrogen requires a substantial effort and time commitment on the part of the winemaking team to be effective. It takes substantially more nitrogen and a greater application time compared to argon to achieve the same reduction in oxygen percentage with a shorter effective shelf life.
In contrast to nitrogen is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is significantly heavier than air at 44 g/mole compared to 29 g/mole and by Graham’s law has a much slower rate of diffusion compared to air. This allows for a more significant displacement of air compared to nitrogen. However, when CO2is delivered from a compressed tank, it is difficult to achieve the desired laminar flow necessary for successful layering. This results in substantial mixing of CO2and air. A more effective alternative for CO2delivery is dry ice (solid CO2) which leads to more efficient layering of CO2and subsequent displacement of air but does not form a permanent layer. However, it should be noted that CO2cannot be considered inert in the same way as nitrogen and argon. Because of Henry’s Law, which states that the solubility of a gas is directly proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the solution, CO2readily dissolves into wine under standard conditions and its solubility can be increased or decreased with changes in pressure. This dissolution of CO2into the wine causes the pressure in the tank to fluctuate and results in the intake of air from the outside environment through an airlock to replace the lost volume of gaseous CO2. If there is no vacuum release valve on the tank, this could cause the tank to implode. Carbon dioxide dissolved in the wine will also alter the acid, flavor, and textural profile of the final wine. Carbon dioxide is much more effective when deployed early in the winemaking process at juice stage or when the wine is young as there will be substantial time to allow excess dissolved CO2to come out of solution. The use of dry ice to protect grape must is an effective way to protect wine must from excess oxygen exposure, deter fruit flies, and subsequently cool the must.
This leaves argon with a molecular weight of 40 g/mole, making it substantially heavier than air (29 g/mole) and similar in weight to CO2but more inert. A major opposition to the use of argon regularly in wine production is because it is significantly more expensive compared to the other two gases. It is true that when purchasing gas by volume argon is roughly three times as expensive as nitrogen or carbon dioxide. However it is much more effective at displacing air and creating a more permanent blanket that remains in contact with the wine surface longer while also remaining inert compared to CO2. Less volume is also needed to achieve the same desired results. At approximately $0.11 per cubic foot (Praxair, Inc) not including daily tank rental fee, a barrel (60 gallons) can be completely gassed with argon for $0.88, 100 gallons of head space for $1.47, and 1,000 gallons of headspace for $14.71. This cost is relatively insignificant to a winery’s bottom line in terms of the degree of quality preservation that argon can provide.
When using any of the gases discussed previously, it is important to select the proper pressure gauge, hose diameter, hose length, flowrate, and the use of a t-valve in order to deliver the gas under laminar conditions. The use of a lower velocity, will encourage laminar flow delivery and reduce any chance of turbulence and subsequent mixing with air, thus creating a more layered effect.
It is ideal to keep the flow velocity to 1 meter per sec or less. To determine the velocity divide the volumetric flow rate in cubic meters per second by the cross sectional area in meters of the hose being used. If using cubic feet instead of cubic meters, perform the same calculation but convert the units from cubic meters to cubic feet and meters to feet. Table 1 shows that it is best to use a 1.5” or 2” diameter line with a t-valve to deliver an adequate amount of gas in a reasonable amount of time. This will require the use of an oversized regulator compared to the typical 0.25” regulator used on most compressed gas cylinders.
In essence it is best practice to recommend the use of argon as the headspace gas for the majority of wine production processes. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen have their respective roles but when it comes to headspace gassing argon it the number one choice. In the production of high quality wine, it is imperative to establish proper gassing procedures. This includes the successful training of staff in all aspects of gassing procedures and the selection of the correct gas for the appropriate task. This also requires selecting the correct regulator size, hose diameter and length, the use of T-valves, measuring gas flow using a flowmeter, and finally verifying results with the use of a dissolved oxygen meter to monitor oxygen levels in the tank headspace pre and post gassing. The proper investment of time and resources in this often overlooked area of winemaking can have a profound effect on wine quality and preservation in the long run. It can also reduce long term costs by reducing the amount of gas and time required to achieve the desired reduction in the amount of oxygen present in a tank headspace.
By: Bryan Hed, Plant Pathology Research Technologist, Erie County and Dr. Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Department of Plant Science
This past growing and harvest season has been, accordingly to many growers, one of the most challenging ever not only in Pennsylvania but in many other eastern US regions. With the 2018 season behind us, we can reflect on what we did right and what we can improve to better manage, when possible, vines under the rainfall conditions experienced in many parts of the Commonwealth. In this article, we will mainly discuss disease and vine vigor/nutrition issues related to seasonal weather conditions. Other issues growers experienced, such as Spotted Lanternfly infestations will be addressed in future blog posts.
What was the major problem? Let’s start with the rain
In Figures 1 and 2, we reported monthly, seasonal (April 1 through October 31) precipitation and growing degree days (GDD; index of heat accumulation) collected by weather stations through the online network for environment and weather applications (http://newa.cornell.edu/) at two locations: Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center (LERGREC) in North East (Erie County, northwestern PA) and in Reading (Berks County, southeast PA). We compared the 2018 data to the previous 19-year (1999-2017) average.
If you look at the monthly rainfall (Figure 1; Table1) throughout the growing season, it was as if Pennsylvania was divided into two regions during July, August, and September: the southern shore of Lake Erie, and the rest of the state. The Erie lakeshore was, indeed, relatively dry as compared to the rest of the state: rainfall from April to October was only about 4 inches higher than the long-term average. However, in other parts of the state rainfall was as much as 14 inches higher than average(Figure 1A: 2018 = 43.14 inches versus 1999-2017 = 28.68 inches). Berks County in southeastern PA started out with slightly above average rainfall for April and May, followed by a slightly drier than average June, but rainfall greatly increased in the second half of the season (Figure 1A). This happened not only in Berks County, but in many regions of the Commonwealth which recorded much higher than average rainfall in July, August, and September (Table 1).
Diseases that depended for development on regular rainfall, like black rot and downy mildew, were relatively easy to control for vineyards along the Lake Erie shore. Powdery mildew was in moderate supply; not light but certainly not of hardcore, epidemic proportions. To complete the picture, we did suffer more than a little from sour rot in some of our wine grapes due to the heat and return of rains in September (5 inches). We also suffered a fair amount of fruit cracking and damage from grape berry moth near harvest that led to some serious shelling and crop loss in many area vineyards. And then, on October 11, it all came to an end. Autumn, which was technically just beginning, was being ‘run out of town on a rail’; the weather suddenly took an entirely different turn and the sun and mild weather disappeared, never looking back.
In stark contrast, other parts of the state were dealing with way too much rain that created perfect conditions for the development of downy mildew and late-season bunch rots. Fortunately, from the rainfall data gathered from NEWA weather stations, it appears that rainfall in the early post-bloom period (second half of June – first half of July) was relatively average, with about 2.75 inches during that four-week period. This period is critical for fruit protection when the fruit of all grape varieties is most susceptible to all the major fungal diseases. However, by mid-July rainfall ramped up, and was especially abundant during the fruit ripening period; avoiding fruit rots was nearly impossible under those extremely wet conditions.
In addition to high disease pressure, wet conditions led to high vegetative growth and high to excessive uptake of nutrients such as potassium (K). In addition to the timely application of canopy management practices to keep vegetative growth under control and maintain an open fruiting zone, the planting of cover crops under the vines could help limit vine vegetative growth through water and nutrient competition (For more information please refer to: Why should we care about under-trellis cover crops?. Our extension team reviewed several plant tissue analysis reports from vineyards across the state and many of them had high, and in several cases excessive, leaf petiole K concentrations. For more information on K and how to manage it in the vineyard please refer to Assessing and managing potassium concentration in the vineyard.
What about heat accumulation?
The 2018 growing season in the Lake Erie region will be remembered as a hot season. Growing degree days accumulated from May 1 to September 30 were almost 3,000 at the LERGREC located along thesouthern shore of Lake Erie (Figure 2B). In contrast, one of the coldest seasons in the last 20 years was 2003 with 2180 GDD, 800 GDD lower than 2018! In 2018 it almost seemed everything happened too fast. Concord grapes at the LERGREC went from 50% bud break to harvest in less than five months, while the growing season for Vignoles (Vitishybrid) was less than 4 months long.
Heat accumulation was close to long-term average in Berks county (Figure 2A) and other PA regions, but with extended overcast conditions (many cloudy days!) throughout the season which might lead to moderate/low sugar accumulation in the fruit. Additionally, the overcast conditions contribute to downy mildew, black rot, and other fruit rots.
Tips for next season disease management
It is important to keep detailed records of where diseases were worst; those are the areas likely to develop disease first next year. Be sure to effectively scout those areas of the vineyard next season. For example, for downy mildew, that means beginning scouting by mid to late May. The downy mildew pathogen spends the winter inside infected grape tissue, especially leaves, that fall to the vineyard soil. The first downy mildew infections can occur during rainfall (at least 0.1 inches of rain and 50 °F) a few weeks prior to bloom, when vines have developed about 5-6 leaves per shoot.
We have several very effective downy mildew fungicides, but it is important to understand the pros and cons of each one. The old standards like mancozeb (Penncozeb, Manzate, Dithane, etc) and copper formulations are effective against downy mildew, and are great for multiple, back to back applications because they pose little risk in terms of the development of resistance, but they are not as rain-fast as some of the more modern downy mildew materials like Revus, Ridomil, and Zampro, and may need to be reapplied more often under heavy and frequent rainfall conditions. And of course, with copper, there is a risk of vine injury, that is exacerbated under wet, slow drying conditions. Copper residues from late-season applications can also interfere with fermentation. On the other hand, the more rain-fast, more modern fungicides should not be used more than two or three times per season, and even though the label may permit it, we recommend you don’t make back-to-back applications of the same chemistry, among these modern materials. Also, I purposely left out mention of the strobilurins for downy mildew control (Abound, Pristine, Reason), especially for the more intensively managed wine grape areas of southern PA; downy mildew resistance to this chemistry (FRAC 11) is common and this class of fungicides should probably not be relied upon anymore for control of this disease in many parts of Pennsylvania. And then there are phosphorus acid products which have become very popular for downy mildew control. But these materials can be overused as well. They certainly are very rain-fast and effective, but they can be lost to resistance (limit their use to two or three applications per season) and they only provide about 7-10 days of protection at each application, especially under heavy disease pressure on susceptible varieties. For more information on downy mildew control please refer to Tips for late season downy mildew control
There are cultural measures you can take to help reduce the overwintering population of pathogens. These measures are not substitutes for a solid seasonal spray program, and they all have their price, but they can make your spray program more effective. The downy mildew and black rot pathogens predominantly overwinter on the soil surface. Strict control of grape seedlings and suckers under the row in spring can reduce opportunities for these pathogens to create ‘stepping stones’ from the soil into your canopies. However, this practice needs to be balanced with the need for renewals where crown gall and the threat of winter trunk damage are perennial issues. During dormant pruning, remove all clustersnot harvested and as much diseased/dead/old wood from the trellis as is practical. Throw this material into the row middle and chop it, or better yet remove it from the vineyard and burn it (if practical). This is especially effective against Phomopsis and black rot. Upright training systems (like vertical shoot position) reduce the probability that pathogen spores will be splashed upward from cordons and trunk, into the fruit zone during rain.
A wet season like 2018 could be the start of additional disease issues heretofore not yet encountered in prior years. For example, a disease called ripe rot(Colletotrichum sp.) may have gotten a fresh foothold in some vineyards in Pennsylvania in 2018. Ripe rot is somewhat of a ‘southern’ disease, it mainly occurs in southern PA vineyards, but it was also noticed in a vineyard in central Pennsylvania in 2018 (Figure 3).
Ripe rot is identified during the ripening period by pink or orange colored slimy spore masses that appear on infected fruit after a wetting period (Figure 3, left panel).
Since downy mildew and late season fruit rot management was a major challenge for many growers in 2018, Grape Disease Management in Wet Seasonswill be discussed in more detail at the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey, PA on January 30, and again at our annual Grape Disease and Insect Management workshop on March 28. We hope to see you there.
By Dr. Molly Kelly, Enology Extension Educator, Department of Food Science
As harvest comes to a close we have planned which wines will be going through malolactic fermentation (MLF). This article provides some information to assist you in dealing with a potentially difficult MLF.
Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is a process of chemical change in wine in which L-malic acid is converted to L-lactic acid and carbon dioxide. This process is normally conducted by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) including Oenococcus oeni, Lactobacillus spp. and Pediococcus spp. O.oeni is the organism typically used to conduct MLF due to its tolerance to low pH, high ethanol and SO2. Most commercial strains are designed to produce favorable flavor profiles.
Although inoculation with a commercial starter is recommended, MLF may occur spontaneously. The lag phase associated with spontaneous MLF may increase the risk of spoilage organisms as well as the production of volatile acidity. Inoculation with a LAB culture can help avoid these problems by providing the cell population needed to successfully conduct MLF (more than 2×106 cells/mL). The compatibility of yeast and LAB should be taken into account since failed MLF may be due to incompatibility between these two organisms.
The key to a successful MLF is to manage the process and to monitor the progress. Although there has been extensive research on the MLF process, it may still be difficult to initiate at times. The possible causes of difficult MLF have been studied less extensively than those of stuck/sluggish alcoholic fermentation. In this article, factors that may influence the start and successful completion of MLF will be discussed.
The main chemical properties that influence MLF are well known: pH, temperature, ethanol and SO2 concentration. A study by Vaillant et al (1995) investigating the effects of 11 physico-chemical parameters, identified ethanol, pH and SO2 as having the greatest inhibitory effect on the growth of LAB in wine.
Generally, LAB prefer increased pH’s and usually, minimal growth occurs at pH 3.0. Under winemaking conditions, pH’s above 3.2 are advised. The pH will determine the dominant species of LAB in the must or wine. At a low pH (3.2 to 3.4) O. oeni is the most abundant LAB species, while at higher pH (3.5 to 4.0), Lactobacillus and Pediococcus will out-number Oenococcus.
MLF is generally inhibited by low temperatures. Research demonstrates that MLF occurs faster at temperatures of 200 C (68˚F) and above versus 150C (59˚F) and below. In the absence of SO2 the optimum temperature range for MLF is 23-250C (73.4˚F-77˚F) with maximum malic acid conversion taking place at 20-250C (68˚F-77˚F). However, with increasing SO2 levels, these temperatures decrease and 200C (68˚F) may be more acceptable.
LAB are ethanol-sensitive with slow or no growth occurring at approximately 13.5%. Commercial O. oeni strains are preferred starter cultures due to tolerance to ethanol. The fatty acid composition of the cell membrane of LAB can be impacted by ethanol content.
LAB may be inhibited by the SO2 produced by yeast during alcoholic fermentation. A total SO2 concentration of more than 50 ppm generally limits LAB growth, especially at lower pH where a larger portion of SO2 is in the antimicrobial form. Generally, it is not recommended to add SO2 after alcoholic fermentation if MLF is desired.
Some of the lesser known factors impacting MLF are discussed below.
MLF can be inhibited by medium chain fatty acids (octanoic and decanoic acids) produced by yeast. It is difficult to finish MLF when octanoic acid content is over 25 mg/L and/or decanoic acid is over 5 mg/L. Bacterial strains that tolerate high concentrations of octanoic and decanoic acids may be important in successful MLF. It is important to check your supplier regarding strain specifications. Yeast hulls may be added before the bacteria are inoculated (0.2g/L) to bind fatty acids. Yeast hulls may also supply unsaturated fatty acids, amino acids and assist with CO2 release.
Some fungicide and pesticide residues may negatively impact malolactic bacteria. Residues of systemic pesticides used in humid years to control botrytis can be most detrimental. Care should be taken in harvest years with high incidence of botrytis. Winegrowers should be familiar with sprays used on incoming fruit and also adhere to pre-harvest intervals.
Lees found at the bottom of a tank can become compacted due to hydrostatic pressure, resulting in yeast, bacteria and nutrients being confined to the point that they cannot function properly. Larger tank sizes may contribute to increased delays in the start of MLF. This inhibition of the start of MLF can be remedied by pumping over either on the day of inoculation or on the second day after inoculation of the bacteria.
Alternatively, contact with yeast lees can have a stimulating effect on MLF. Yeast autolysis releases amino acids and vitamins which may serve as nutrients for LAB. Yeast polysaccharides may also detoxify the medium by adsorbing inhibitory compounds. A general recommendation is to stir lees at least weekly to keep LAB and nutrients in suspension.
Residual levels of lysozyme may impact MLF. Follow the supplier’s recommendations regarding the required time delay between lysozyme additions and the inoculation of the commercial MLF culture. Strains of O. oeni are more sensitive to the effects of lysozyme compared to strains of Lactobacillus or Pediococcus.
Malic acid concentration
Malic acid concentrations vary between grape cultivars and may also differ from year to year in the same grape cultivar. MLF becomes increasingly difficult in wines with levels of malic acid below 0.8g/L. In this case a ML starter culture with high malate permease activity or a short activation protocol is recommended. Check with your supplier to ensure that the chosen strain has these attributes if needed.
Wines with levels above 5 g/L malic acid may start MLF, but may not go to completion. This may be due to inhibition of the bacteria by increasing concentrations of L-lactic acid derived from the MLF itself.
Difficult MLF can result from insufficient nutrients necessary for LAB growth. Since yeast can reduce available nutrients for LAB, time of inoculation is important to avoid competition for nutrients. The addition of nutrients when inoculating for MLF is especially important if the must and wine has low nutrient status or if yeast strains with high nutritional requirements are used. The addition of bacterial nutrients can help ensure a rapid start and successful completion of MLF.
Research demonstrates that the longer it takes to initiate MLF, there is a greater risk for Brettanomyces growth. Some inoculate during alcoholic fermentation (AF) to avoid this problem. Co-inoculation involves adding malolactic starter 24 hours after AF starts. By controlling microbial populations, the growth of spoilage organisms such as Brettanomyces may be inhibited.
Note that inorganic nitrogen (diammonium phosphate) cannot be used by LAB. Check with your supplier for the optimum nutrient product for your particular MLF needs.
Malolactic bacteria are sensitive to excessive amounts of oxygen. The bacteria should not be exposed to large amounts of oxygen after AF is complete. Micro-oxygenation may have a positive impact on the completion of MLF. This impact may be due to the gentle stirring associated with micro-oxygenation that keeps LAB and nutrients in suspension rather than the exposure to oxygen itself.
Some red grape cultivars may have difficulty completing a successful MLF. Some varieties that may experience increased MLF problems include Merlot, Tannat and Zinfandel. This may be related to certain grape tannins negatively impacting the growth and survival of LAB.
Polyphenols can have either stimulatory or inhibitory effects on the growth of wine LAB. This effect depends on the type and concentration of polyphenols as well as on the LAB strain. The tannin fraction of wine tends to complex with other compounds, minimizing their inhibitory effects on MLF. However, in wines that contain a large amount of condensed tannins only, LAB are increasingly inhibited.
MLF nutrients containing polysaccharides have been shown to minimize this effect. This may be due to interactions between the polysaccharides and tannins.
MLF difficulties are usually due to a combination of factors. A stuck or sluggish MLF is usually not the result of one factor alone. It is important, therefore, to both understand and manage the MLF process at each step of the winemaking process. Proper measurement of the process is also vital to be aware when MLF is not proceeding as desired.
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By Jody Timer, Entomology Research Technologist, Penn State’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center
What is NEWA?
NEWA is The Network for Environment and Weather Applications network which has the capacity to connect you with data from weather stations across the Northeast. NEWA was created in 1995 by the NewYork State IPM. It is an online agricultural decision support system that uses real-time weather data, streamed over the internet from 573 weather stations throughout the Northeast, Midwest, and mid-Atlantic. (newa.cornell.edu) NEWA models and resources are available free of charge and are used to make informed localized crop management decisions.
Although provided free on the internet, it is funded through the New York State IPM program. It provides insect and plant disease pest management tools, degree days, insect models, crop production models, National Weather Service forecasts, and localized weather information for growers, consultants, Extension educators, faculty, researchers, and others. Interactive forecast models automatically compute and display results to inform crop production and precision IPM practices.
The information specific to grape production includes; Downy mildew, Phomopsis, Black rot, Powdery mildew, and Grape berry moth. This information can advise grape growers of best spray timing, wetting periods, and peaks in Grape berry moth generations specific to their area. A weather station at your farm or business improves the precision and accuracy of NEWA tools. NEWA interfaces with RainWise stations.
On the home page of NEWA (newa.cornell.edu) is a map of the Northeastern U.S. marked with the locations of hundreds of weather stations where historical and ‘up to the hour’ weather data can be viewed. Click on a weather station near enough to you (denoted by a leaf/raindrop icon) to get weather, insect pest, and disease information you need to make important management decisions. Clicking on ‘grapes’ under ‘crop pages’ will give you access to forecasting models for all the major diseases, as well as the grape berry moth degree-day model that will improve your timing of grape berry moth insecticide. You can replace your own grape bloom date with the one provided on the NEWA page to get a more precise prediction of recommended spray timings for grape berry moth generations.
Each model forecast is accompanied by helpful disease management messages and explanations. These suggestions for grape production are reviewed yearly by the Cornell and Penn State research and extension grape team.
Contact your NEWA state coordinator before making any station purchase decision. NEWA partners with member states throughout the eastern and central United States to provide local grower support and expertise. Your coordinator can provide information specific to your state, answer questions about the NEWA platform, direct commodity questions to appropriate extension or university resources, and identify possible training opportunities for you. Click here to view a list of NEWA state coordinators.
There is also a youtube video on the NEWA weather station network: https://youtu.be/Av8mlZEXZ8M?t=30
By Dr. Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Department of Plant Science
If just one adjective was chosen to describe the 2018 growing season to date, many of us might suggest ‘rainy.’ In many Pennsylvania regions, grape growers faced persistent rainfall for the majority of the summer. For example, in central PA, State College has had an accumulation of 29 inches (737 mm) of rainfall for the months of April through August. Growers really had to be on top of their fungicide spray schedule and canopy management plans to minimize the risk of disease so that fruit will be healthy at harvest time. Recently, Bryan Hed and Jody Timer wrote blog posts that provided recommendations for late-season downy mildew control (late season downy mildew control)and insect problems (late season insect problems). While the weather forecasted for harvest season is weighing heavily on the minds of many grape growers, a post-veraison task critical for a successful harvest is collecting grape samples to measure the progression of fruit maturity.
This article provides a brief review on what fruit ripeness parameters you should measure and how to collect berry or cluster samples to best assess fruit maturity. While this information could be particularly useful for new grape growers approaching their first vintage, experienced growers should review the information to ensure that they are using the best techniques for collecting representative fruit samples.
Grapes are typically harvested when they reach desired fruit quality parameters (e.g., sugar content, pH, flavor, color) which vary depending on the wine type or style the winemaker aims to produce. Grapes should be sampled periodically until harvest to monitor how parameters associated with fruit maturity (e.g., sugar, pH, organic acids, flavors) evolve through the ripening season. However, there are many other factors involved in selecting a harvest date, which may or may not directly relate to optimal fruit maturity. These factors include:
- Fruit health condition (is the fruit deteriorating due to rot or other disease or insect damage?),
- disease and insect pressure,
- short and long-range weather forecasts,
- available labor,
- space available at the winery to process the grapes, and
- type or style of wine that will be made.
What fruit ripeness parameters to measure
The evaluation of the overall fruit ripeness involves quantitative parameters (sugar content, pH, titratable acidity) but also measurements that go beyond analytical techniques(berry sensory analysis).
Quantitative measurements to determine grape ripeness:
The information reported below is adapted and summarized from the factsheet Determining grape maturity and fruit sampling written by Dr. Imed Dami, Ohio State University. To access the entire document click the following link Determining grape maturity and fruit sampling.
Sugars, organic acids, and pH are the primary indicators of technological or commercial grape maturity, which is different from physiological maturity that occurs at or soon after veraison when seeds are ready to germinate.
Sugars: Sugars, specifically glucose and fructose, are the main soluble solids in grape juice. Sugar content is typically measured in degree Brix (°Brix); 1 degree Brix corresponds to 1 gram of sugar per 100 grams of grape juice. Desirable levels of sugar content are typically between 18 and 24ᵒBrix, depending on grape variety and wine style.
Sugar level is relatively easy to measure in the vineyard with a handheld refractometer (Figure 1). However, sugar content is not always related to an accumulation of flavor compounds. Even within the same variety, the desired varietal flavor can be reached at different sugar level in different vintages. Similarly, two varieties might have the same sugar level, but one might have fully developed varietal flavors, while the other may not.
Figure 1. Handheld refractometer used to measure soluble solids (sugars) content.
Organic acids: Titratable acidity (TA; sometimes referred to as total acidity) indicates the total amount of acids in the grape juice. The two major organic acids in grapes are tartaric and malic acids. TA is determined by titration of the juice sample with a standardized solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH). The amount of NaOH used to neutralize the acid in the juice is used to calculate juice TA.
Although acid levels at harvest vary across vintages and varieties, they generally fall between 0.6 and 0.8 grams of titratable acids / 100 mL of juice (or 6 – 8 g/L of juice).
pH: pH (power of Hydrogen) measures the strength of acidity, which is the reactivity of H+ ions in the juice solution. pH is generally measured with a pH meter. Typically, the lower the pH the higher the acidity in the juice; however, there is no direct relationship between TA and pH. It is possible to find juice (or wine) with high pH and high TA. Generally, white grapes are harvested at a lower pH than red grapes (white varieties = pH of 3.1 to 3.3; red varieties = 3.3 to 3.5). High pH levels (> 3.70) can negatively influence wine microbial and physical stability.
Berry sensory analysis:
It is a good exercise for growers and winemakers to periodically monitor fruit ripeness (e.g., development of flavor, color) both visually and using sensory evaluation of the berry skin, pulp, and seeds separately. Berry sensory analysis may seem difficult at first, but you can easily master the technique with some practice and good record keeping.
The procedure involves putting berries in your mouth, crushing them gently to press out the juice, and evaluating its sweetness and acidity. The next step is to separate the seeds from the skin and place them in your hand for visual observation (green seed = immature seed; brown seed = mature seed; Figure 2). Lastly, crush the berry skin and put it on your cheeks to assess the degree of astringency. For more detailed information refer to the following article written by Dr. Joe Fiola, University of Maryland: Evaluating grape samples for ripeness.
Figure 2. Seed – visual and taste evaluation (Photo credit: Denise Gardner)
You can learn more about berry sensory analysis techniques and protocols available by reading Berry sensory analysis, written by Dr. B. Zoecklein, Virginia Tech University, and Assessing ripeness through sensory evaluation, written by Dr. Mark Greenspan.
One way to quantify and record subjective fruit ripeness criteria is to use a scorecard, one of which has been developed by The Ohio State University. You can find the scorecard on page 2 in the article: Determining grape maturity and fruit sampling.
When to start sampling grapes and how often
You should begin sampling grapes after veraison, and increase how often you sample as harvest approaches (i.e., from every other week to weekly to every couple of days).
How to collect a representative sample
Before you start walking down your vineyard rows, it is important to understand your vineyard’s variability in order to collect samples that are representative of the entire vineyard, which can effectively assist with your harvest scheduling-decisions.
Variation within a vineyard can be due to soil characteristics, topography, vine age, etc., which creates differences in vine growth and subsequent ripening. Make sure to collect a separate sample from each area of your vineyard that produces vines with different growth. The number of samples to collect depends on the vineyard size, but also on the level of variation in growth, disease, and other stress amongst vines. A higher level of variation amongst vines will require a greater number of samples.
Every vineyard manager or winemaker has a preferred method for collecting grape samples. While some might prefer to collect whole clusters, others prefer to collect individual berries from multiple clusters and combined them into one sample for each block (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Berry samples collected around veraison (Photo credit Don Smith).
Each sampling method has its own pros and cons; however, regardless of the technique you decide to adopt it is critical to:
- Avoid sampling from edge rows, vines at the beginning or end of the row, or ‘unusual’ vines.
- Collect ‘random’ samples and avoid looking at the cluster when sampling. Although subconsciously, we tend to preferentially collect good looking, large, and sun-exposed clusters, as well as the ripest berries. This can lead to an overestimation of the actual sugar content of the whole fruit biomass used for winemaking.
- Collect berries or clusters from both sides of the vine and from shoots at all positions on the vines (near the trunk, middle of the cordon/cane, end of the cordon/cane) and across the entire fruiting zone of the vine. Select clusters from basal and distal nodes, but not from clusters that you will not harvest, such as those from lateral shoots.
- Collect the sample from a large number of vines. For example, if you collect 100 berries per vineyard block, they should be from at least 20 clusters from 20 different vines.
- Be consistent. Use the same standardized protocol throughout the season and across seasons. If possible, the same person should do the sampling each time.
- With berry sampling, it is also important to collect berries from all parts of the cluster: top, center, bottom, front, and back. Sampler bias can favor berries collected from the top and bottom of the cluster, missing, or underrepresenting the central region of the cluster.
It is also important to remember that:
- The larger the sample the more accurate the measurement will be. For example, if you collect individual berries you need 2 samples of 100 berries to be within +/- 1.0 °Brix accuracy level at harvest. To improve accuracy and be within +/- 0.5 °Brix of actual sugar at harvest you need to collect 5 samples of 100 berries. If you are sampling clusters, 10 clusters are required to be within +/- 1.0 °Brix. The number of samples also depends on vineyard variability.
- Weather condition might affect the values of fruit ripeness parameters. Try to collect your samples at the same time of the day each time you collect the berries.
Process the sample
Samples should be processed within 24 hours of collecting them. Until you are able to process them, store berries in sealed plastic bags and clusters in a container/bucket, and keep the fruit in a refrigerator.
You can crush the berries in a clear plastic bag and visually check to see that all of them have been crashed, or you can use a food mill or another piece of kitchenware. After crushing the fruit, filter the juice using a cheesecloth, coffee filter, or paper towel.
We encourage PA wine grape growers to share their experience with grape sampling; what works for them and what doesn’t.
By: Jody Timer, Entomology Research Technologist, Erie County
The grape berry moth (GBM): The most destructive grape insect pest in the Eastern US is the native Grape Berry Moth, Paralobesia viteana. This insect is becoming increasingly harder to control as result of shorter residual time of insecticides, resistance to insecticides, and abandoned vineyards. GBM larval burrow into the grape berry soon after hatching, making precise timing of spray applications a critical component of control. This insect has four generations per year. Each generation increases in number exponentially if control measures are not applied to the early generations. Although in early season this insect pest has distinct peaks in generational emergence, by August the peaks have overlapped making complete control almost impossible. Growing areas with large populations require a second generational spray in July and/or August. If these sprays have not been applied and there are GBM problems in your vineyard, it is a good idea to spray for this fourth generation in September. Spray timings can be calculated by following the NEWA model recommendations. Although much of the damage may have already occurred, this spray will help prevent the generations from starting the season next year farther into your vineyard. If you are dropping your crop from the end rows because of the excessive berry moth damage, collecting the dropped grapes as opposed to dropping them under the trellis will greatly reduce overwintering populations from remaining in your vineyard. More GBM information can be found on extension pages and on the LERGP Podcasts.
Spotted wing drosophila (SWD): Spotted wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii,(SWD)is an invasive vinegar fly of East Asian origin that was recently introduced into the United States. It was first found in Pennsylvania in 2010. The potential infestation rate of spotted wing drosophila differs from other vinegar flies because the female possesses a serrated ovipositor that cuts into healthy fruit to lay eggs. Consequently, spotted wing drosophila (SWD) larvae can be found in fruit that is just ripening. During egg-laying, it is believed that sour rot and fungal disease can also be introduced, further affecting the fruit quality. All fruit flies carry yeast which can affect the quality of wine if these flies are present during winemaking. During peak temperatures, a female can lay more than 100 eggs a day. Such a high reproduction rate indicates the SWDs’ high potential for fruit infestation and their potential for spreading rapidly through a vineyard, with multiple generations occurring each year. Spotted wing drosophila is now one of the most serious pests of thin-skinned fruits including grapes. At this time, no action threshold is available for SWD, so the common recommendation is to increase monitoring when one fly is captured on a farm and began a spray regiment continuing through harvest, making sure to protect fruit through to harvest using registered insecticides. Female SWD are able to lay eggs into fruit from the time of first coloring through to harvest, so this period is the window of susceptibility to SWD. Because SWD populations tend to increase in the later part of the summer, we expect late-harvested fruit, such as grapes, to experience higher pressure from SWD than those that are harvested earlier in the summer such as strawberries and summer red raspberries. A number of registered insecticides have been very effective against SWD in laboratory trials, the most effective chemicals are organophosphate, pyrethroid, and spinosyn class insecticides. Under field conditions, insecticides with fast knockdown activity have performed well at protecting fruit immediately after application. When SWD are detected it is recommended that the spray intervals be tightened to prevent crop infestation before and during harvest.
Spotted Lanternfly (SLF): This newest invasive insect has the potential to be devastating to the grape growing industry. Its preferred host is the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and grapevines. SLF aggregate feeds on vines by piercing the vines and feeding on the phloem and xylem. This feeding causes intracellular damage as the insects siphon vast amounts of phloem which reduces the vine’s health and vigor. The insects excrete honeydew and the feeding sites leak sap, which causes sooty mold to form on the leaves reducing the photosynthesis. The sap also attracts secondary pests such as wasps and bees. The wounds make the hosts more susceptible to disease. Systemic chemicals are preferable and highly effective, but insect feeding is still damaging as there is a constant influx of insects from forest margins. Eggs are laid at the end of the season and the adult insects die. If discovered, egg masses should be removed immediately. Thirteen counties in southeastern PA are now under quarantine for this insect.
Multicolored Asian ladybird beetles (MALB): Although these insects cannot be effectively sprayed at harvest, vineyards should be scouted prior to harvesting to see if they are present. MALB feeds on damaged fruit and causes taint to wine and juice in very small numbers if harvested with the grapes.
By: Bryan Hed, Plant Pathology Research Technologist, Erie County
At this time of year, it’s so important to continue scouting leaves for the distinctive white ‘downy’ sporulation of downy mildew. Growers of susceptible varieties need to keep closely monitoring their vineyards for active sporulation and use that information in combination with the DMCast model on NEWA.
The presence of active white sporulation on the undersides of leaves means the downy mildew pathogen is capable of spreading quickly under wet conditions and can spiral out of control, strip vines of their leaves and effectively end the season (and the ripening of canes for next year’s crop).
If you find yourself trying to control this disease well into the ripening period, be aware that your list of chemical control options will start to become shorter as we get within 30 (Ranman, Reason), then 21 (Ziram, Presidio (only older stocks; can’t purchase new material anymore)), then 14 (Revus, Revus Top, Zampro) days of harvest, until in the end you’ll be left with some formulations of Captan, copper, and phosphorous acid products (0 day pre-harvest interval).
Its also important to remember that materials like Ranman, Reason, Revus/Revus Top, and Zampro contain chemistries that are prone to the development of resistance. These materials should not be used to put down an epidemic, which will speed up the resistance development process. And, although phosphorous acid products are less prone to resistance development, you will enhance the chances of losing this technology to resistance as well, by using these materials on a heavily diseased vineyard.
Also, limit your use of phosphorous acid products to three applications per season. On the other hand, fungicides like Captan or copper formulations would be least risky in terms of the development of resistance and can be an effective means of controlling downy mildew late into the growing season.
Just be mindful of varieties that may be injured by copper applications, and that copper injury will be exacerbated by application under slow drying conditions and application to wet canopies (for example, don’t make applications to dew covered canopies in the early morning). If you are protecting a non-bearing, young vineyard from downy mildew (you’re not selling/harvesting a crop), you can continue to use mancozeb products past the 66-day pre-harvest interval.