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Grapevine leafroll associated virus; A brief introduction to an old disease. Should Pennsylvania grape growers be concerned?

By: Bryan Hed, Michela Centinari, and Cristina Rosa

As if wine grape growers don’t have enough challenges in this day and age, the effects of grapevine viruses have been taking on greater importance in eastern vineyards over the past several years. Studies examining grapevine leafroll-associated viruses are developing a growing body of information that will be essential for vineyard managers to continue moving the eastern wine grape industry forward. Grape growers in the eastern United States need not feel they are the only ones with this disease management challenge (as is the case with many fungal diseases of grapes); grapevine leafroll-associated viruses (GLRaVs) are found in vineyards all over the world (Compendium of Grape Diseases). This group of viruses causes a disease known as grapevine leafroll disease, and the association of symptoms with grapevine leafroll viruses was recognized over 80 years ago. As is the case with so many plant pathogens, the worldwide distribution of these viruses occurred as a result of increased movement of plant material/goods across the globe; the ever widening dissemination of infected planting stock (Compendium of grape diseases). The effects of these leafroll viruses is most severe on – you guessed it – cultivars of V. vinifera, where the disease is known to greatly reduce yield, vine vegetative growth or vigor, and cold hardiness; a factor of critical importance for these cultivars grown in the northeastern United States. Grapevine leafroll disease can also delay fruit maturity, reduce color development in red grapes, and fruit quality (decreased soluble solids, increased titratable acidity) of V. vinifera grapes (Fuchs et al. 2009), which can negatively impact perceived wine quality. The severity of the effects of leafroll viruses is dependent on a great number of factors such as grapevine cultivar, virus strain, climate, soil, cultural practices, stress factors, etc. So naturally, the severity of symptoms can vary from one season to the next (Compendium of Grape Diseases). With respect to cultivar, the effects of these viruses on Vitis interspecific hybrids and Vitis labrusca are generally considered to be less serious, but are also less well defined and studied.

Infection by leafroll viruses results in the degeneration of primary phloem tissues in grapevine shoots, leaves and clusters (Compendium of Grape Diseases). As one can imagine, this can have profound effects on all parts of the vine. Symptoms of the disease, which are generally most observable on V. vinifera, consist of cupping and discoloration of older leaves in late summer and fall. On red fruited varieties, leaves of infected vines can display a distinct red coloration of the interveinal tissue, while veins remain green (Figure 1). On white fruited varieties of V. vinifera, symptoms are less striking and leaves tend to look yellowish (chlorotic) and cupped (Figure 2). Leaf discoloration generally affects older leaves first, but these symptoms are not diagnostic of the disease, as they may be due to other causes such as nutrient deficiencies, water stress, and even crown gall. Analysis of grapevine tissues in the laboratory is the only way to confirm the presence (or absence) of these viruses.

Figure 1. Grapevine Leafroll Disease on red fruited Vitis vinifera. The infected vine is on the left (Courtesy: Dr. Wendy McFadden, OMAFRA)


Figure 2. Symptoms of leafroll virus on white Vitis vinifera. Note the more subtle yellowing of the leaves and cupping of leaf margins. (Courtesy: Dr. Wendy McFadden, OMAFRA)

Currently, there are about seven GLRaVs found in cultivated grapes, the most common being GLRaV-3. These viruses are easily spread over long distances through the movement of infected nursery stock, but can be spread (vectored) within the vineyard by mealybugs (Compendium of Grape Diseases). Unfortunately, there are no known sources of resistance to GLRaVs among Vitis species and they have been found in many cultivated grape varieties, including V. labrusca, Vitis interspecific hybrids, and V. vinifera. Interest in grapevine leafroll disease and the extent of its effects has been growing in the eastern United States over the past ten years or so. Surveys conducted in New York, Ohio, and Virginia (Fuchs et al. 2009, Jones et al. 2015, Han et al. 2014), have provided confirmation of the presence of GLRaVs in commercial vineyards and have yielded important information necessary to the management of grapevine leafroll disease. For example, infection by GLRaVs is permanent and infected vines must be destroyed to reduce the incidence of grapevine leafroll disease. Therefore, management of the disease would naturally include planting only stock that is free of GLRaVs. Insecticides that target mealybugs and soft scales can prevent vine to vine spread (within the vineyard) of GLRaVs that are known to be vectored by these insects (Compendium of Grape Diseases). Indeed, studies have shown that applications of insecticides like dinotefuran (Scorpion) and spirotetramat (Movento) can significantly reduce mealybug counts and result in a slowing of the progress of the disease in vineyards. One study from New York (Fuchs et al. 2015) showed that insecticide applications should target overwintered and second instar mealybug crawlers from bud swell to bloom and summer generation crawlers later in mid-summer. A study with grape phylloxera as a potential vector of these viruses showed that phylloxera can acquire the virus through phloem feeding on infected vines, but there was no evidence that phylloxera can transmit it (Wistrom et al. 2017).

As was mentioned earlier, cultivars of Vitis labrusca (Concord, Niagara) can also become infected with GLRaVs, but the infections appear to remain latent or dormant (Bahder et al. 2012) and have not been shown to result in visual symptoms of the disease (Wilcox et al. 1998). On the other hand, cultivars of V. vinifera are severely affected by GLRaVs and make up a very important and growing sector of the PA wine grape industry. Surveys conducted in New York, Ohio, and Virginia (Fuchs et al. 2009, Jones et al. 2015, Han et al. 2014) have revealed the presence of GLRaVs in commercial vineyards to the north, west, and south of Pennsylvania and have led to the development of some important guidelines for management of grapevine leafroll disease.

Given the fact that grapevine leafroll disease is common worldwide and that grapevine leafroll disease can profoundly impact wine quality and grapevine health, researchers at Penn State University are initiating a project to look for GLRaVs in Pennsylvania vineyards.  As in other states, the study is targeted to help growers recognize the impact that the disease may be having on the Pennsylvania wine industry and help them to address the effects of these viruses on productivity and fruit quality, reduce their spread and impact, and thereby grow and improve the wine grape industry in Pennsylvania.

The short term, initial objectives of this project will focus on the development of an online survey to collect information from growers with regard to the presence of symptoms of grapevine leafroll disease in Pennsylvania vineyards and their interest in participating in the project. The project will then follow up with tissue sampling from participating, symptomatic and non-symptomatic vineyards throughout the state and serological analysis to determine the presence of Grapevine leafroll virus-1 and Grapevine leafroll virus-3 – the most common of the leafroll viruses – in commercial vineyards in Pennsylvania. The collection of vineyard samples across the state will map the incidence and geographical distribution of these viruses on cultivars of Vitis vinifera and Vitis interspecific hybrid grapevines. The project will also determine and compare the impact of grapevine cultivar and age on infection by Grapevine leafroll virus-1 and -3 in Pennsylvania. Once infected vines have been identified in Pennsylvania vineyards, future objectives will focus on studying the impacts of grapevine leafroll disease on grape quality and productivity in Pennsylvania, and management techniques to mitigate the economic impact of the disease on the Pennsylvania wine industry.

Vineyards will be selected from all parts of Pennsylvania, but the number of locations will favor northwestern and southeastern PA, where the majority of vineyards are located. The study will be expanded as new findings are made and the results will be made available to growers at various meetings throughout the next several years.


Literature cited:

Bahder, B., Alabi, O., Poojari, S., Walsh, D., and Naidu, R. 2013. A Survey for Grapevine Viruses in Washington State ‘Concord’ (Vitis x labruscana L.) Vineyards. Plant Health Progress, August 5, 2013. American Phytopathological Society (online).

Compendium of Grape Diseases, Disorders, and Pests. 2nd edition, 2015. Editors Wayne F. Wilcox, Walter D. Gubler, and Jerry K. Uyemoto. The American Phytopathological Society. Pp. 118-119.

Fuchs, M.Martinson, T. E.Loeb, G. M.Hoch, H. C. 2009. Survey for the three major leafroll disease-associated viruses in Finger Lakes vineyards in New York. Plant Disease 93:395-401.

Fuchs, M.Marsella-Herrick, P.Hesler, S.Martinson, T.Loeb, G. M. 2015. Seasonal pattern of virus acquisition by the grape mealybug, Pseudococcus maritimus, in a leafroll-diseased vineyard. Journal of Plant Pathology Vol.97 No.3 pp.503-510

Han, J.Ellis, M. A.Qu, F. 2014. First report of Grapevine leaf roll-associated virus-2 and –3 in Ohio vineyards. Plant Disease Vol.98 No.2 pp.284-285

Jones, T. J.Rayapati, N. A.Nita, M. 2015. Occurrence of Grapevine leafroll associated virus-2, -3 and Grapevine fleck virus in Virginia, U.S.A., and factors affecting virus infected vines. European Journal of Plant Pathology 142:209-222.

Wilcox, W. F.Jiang, Z. Y.Gonsalves, D. 1998. Leafroll virus is common in cultivated American grapevines in western New York. Plant Disease Vol.82 No.9 pp.1062.

Wistrom, C. M., G. K. Blaisdell, L. R. Wunderlich, M. Botton, Rodrigo P. P. Almeida & K. M. Daane. 2017. No evidence of transmission of grapevine leafroll-associated viruses by phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae). European Journal of Plant Pathology. Volume 147, issue 4. pp 937–941.

Growth Regulator Herbicides Negatively Affect Grapevine Development: Identification of Herbicide Drift Damage, How to Prevent it, and What to do if it Occurs in your Vineyard

By: Michela Centinari

The Penn State Extension grape team has been receiving reports on herbicide drift damage in vineyards from a number of Pennsylvania wine grape growers this growing season, definitely many more than in previous years. All herbicides registered for grapes can potentially harm the vines if not applied in accordance to the pesticide label (e.g., glyphosate products) [1]. However, in many of the reported cases through the 2017 growing season the damage was caused by herbicides not registered for grapes, which drifted into the vineyards from nearby fields.

Damage from herbicide drift is, unfortunately, something that grape growers across the country are too familiar with. It represents an economic threat for the grape and wine industry and should not be underestimated. Herbicide drift damage can, indeed, result in significant crop losses which may extend to multiple seasons, and in some cases it also results in vine death. Several extension web resources are available to assist grape growers in preventing and dealing with herbicide drift damage. Some of them are listed at the end of this article, including one from Andy Muza, extension educator at Penn State (Growth Regulator Herbicides and Grapes Don’t Mix).

Due to the increase in reports of herbicide drift damage in Pennsylvania vineyards it seems appropriate to discuss some key points surrounding this issue. This article will review how to identify herbicide drift symptoms, what measures grape growers and pesticide applicators can take to prevent herbicide drift, and what steps to take if the drift occurs.

Plant growth regulators (PGR) herbicides are those most likely to injure grapevines, mainly through drift.

I will only focus on the herbicides which belong to the plant growth regulators (PGR) mode of action group. Common active ingredients of PGR herbicides are 2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid; phenoxy family), dicamba (benzoic acid), tricolopyr or picloram (pyridine family). A partial list of common PGR herbicides as well as other herbicides that may injure grapevines can be found at Preventing Herbicide Drift and Injury to Grapes, Table 1.

PGR herbicides are widely used for controlling broadleaf weeds in many crops, such as wheat, corn, soybean, pasture, rangeland, etc. They are also frequently utilized to control unwanted broadleaf vegetation in turf, by railroads, road ditches, fence lines, and rights-of-way. These herbicides are not registered for use with grapes. However, when applied to a nearby field, they can drift into the vineyard and cause significant injury to grapevines.

Most of the herbicide drift damage reported this season by Pennsylvania grape growers were caused by drift of PGR herbicides (Figure 1). Physiological symptoms to PGR exposure is not too surprising because grapevines are extremely sensitive to PGR herbicides, including the phenoxy, benzoic, and pyridine classes of compounds [2]. For example, herbicides containing 2,4-D can damage grapes at a concentration 100 times lower than the recommended label rate. Moreover, drift from PGR herbicides can injure grapevines located half a mile or more from the application site.

Figure 1. 2,4-D damage on Grüner Veltliner in Pennsylvania. The leaves are severely distorted, the shoot tip died, and bloom failed.

What is “drift”?

Drift is defined as “the movement of herbicides off the site where they were applied” [3]. Non-target drift can occur either as spray drift or vapor drift. Spray drift occurs during herbicide application when small droplets move off the application site under unfavorable wind conditions. Vapor drift occurs after herbicide application as the spray material volatizes or evaporates and is carried away from the application site by wind or temperature inversions. Some PGR herbicides, such as ester formulations of 2,4-D, readily volatilize, especially when used under high temperatures and low humidity conditions (high vapor pressure) [3].

How PGR damage occurs in grapevines

PGR herbicides mimic auxins, plant hormones that regulate growth and development. Applications of PGR herbicides disrupt plant hormone balance causing growth abnormalities. PGR herbicides can be absorbed by both roots and leaves, however grapevines are usually injured through foliar absorption.

How to tell if the vines have been damaged by PGR herbicide drift

Damage from PGR herbicides typically appears within 2 days of the drift occurrence. Herbicide drift can damage leaves, shoots, flowers, and fruit. Leaf symptoms are often easy to recognize, but sometimes can be mistaken with those of fanleaf degeneration, a viral disease [3]. Growers can send pictures of damaged vines to a local extension specialist for confirmation.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Distorted leaf appearance: Symptoms are typically more severe on the youngest leaves and shoot tips. Affected leaves are “smaller, narrow, deformed, and they have closely packed, thick veins that lack of chlorophyll” [4]. They may also have a distinct fan-shape appearance, and depending on the herbicide’s active ingredient, they can bend downward or cup upward (Figures 2, 3). Leaves may or may not outgrow the symptoms, it largely depends on the severity of the injury and other factors listed in the following section (“Factors affecting the severity of injury”). It is also common to see regrowth of deformed leaves after drift exposure [3].

Figure 2. Leaf cupping caused by improper application of Stinger (PGR-herbicide). Photo credit: Rob Crassweller.

Figure 3. 2,4-D injury on leaves. Photo on the left: A. Muza, Penn State.

  • Shoot growth: Damaged shoot tips rarely resume growth, but lateral shoots can keep growing giving in some cases a “bushy” appearance to the vine resulting in a highly shaded canopy and poor fruit sun exposure.
  • Flower clusters (inflorescences): symptoms can include aborted or failed flowers, and poor fruit set (Figure 4). If the injury is severe enough it can cause reduced yield at harvest and poor fruit quality, in addition to potentially illegal residues of herbicide on the exposed crop.

Figure 4. 2,4-D herbicide drift damage on Grüner Veltliner flower clusters. Photo taken on July 19, 2017 approximately two months after the herbicide drift incident. Notice only two berries developed properly (circled in the photo).

In some cases, depending on the timing and level of drift exposure, floral symptoms may be much more pronounced than those on the leaves making the diagnosis more difficult (i.e., growers may relate poor fruit set or dead flowers to other causes rather than herbicide drift) (Figure 5).

Figure 5. 2,4-D herbicide drift damage on Riesling flower clusters. Photo taken on June 26, 2017. Notice the leaves around the clusters look healthy.

If the damage occurs early in the season, between bud burst and bloom, as it usually does, a significant reduction in healthy leaf area during the period of rapid shoot growth may affect vine photosynthetic capacity, lowering vine ability to fully ripen the crop and possibly its ability to survive cold winters.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that the vines will fully and rapidly recover from herbicide drift damage. Carry-over effects into the following years, such as reduction in vine vigor, yield, fruit quality, and increased susceptibility to diseases, are common if the damage is extensive and/or the vines have been repeatedly exposed to PGR-herbicide drift. Finally, vines may die as a consequence of their weakened condition [2].

What factors affect the severity of PGR-herbicide drift damage?

Some of the most important factors affecting the severity of drift damage are:

  • Vine growth stage at the time of exposure. Grapevines are always sensitive to PGR herbicides, but they are most susceptible during the early part of the growing season, from bud burst through bloom. While dependent on the growing season and site, in Pennsylvania this usually occurs around April through June. Early in the growing season shoots are rapidly growing and PGR herbicides are quickly translocated to the shoot tip, where the natural concentration of auxins is greatest inside the grapevine. If exposure occurs later in the season, vines typically outgrow the damage and still produce good yield [5].
  • Vine age: Younger plants are more vulnerable and they have a lower ability to recover from the PGR herbicide damage than mature vines. Young vines may be killed even at low exposures [6].
  • Level of exposure: Higher concentration and/or repeated exposures will result in higher disruption of the vine’s physiology and lower ability of the vines to rapidly and fully recover from the damage [3].
  • Grapevine variety. All grapevine varieties are sensitive to PGR herbicides, but some may show more visual and physiological symptoms than others (see for example Table 1, Questions and Answers about Vineyard Injury from Herbicide Drift)
  • Other factors include herbicide concentration and formulation (for example ester formulations of 2,4-D are more volatile than amine formulations, thus ester formulations of 2,4-D are more prone to move off-target as vapor), weather conditions (temperature, humidity, and most importantly wind speed) at the time of herbicide application.

What is the best strategy to protect vines from herbicide drift injury?

Prevention is undoubtedly the best strategy for grapevine growers to avoid herbicide damage. To reduce the risk of herbicide drifting into their vineyard, vineyard managers and/or owners should be proactive. Some prevention steps both grape growers and nearby growers of other crops can take are listed below:

  • Maintain good relations with neighbors. Vineyard owners and managers should make sure their neighbors within approximately a half-mile to 1 mile radius, are aware that vines are extremely sensitive to PGR herbicides [3]. It is also recommended to encourage neighbors to “use drift-reduction spray nozzles (nozzles that produce large droplets) and to select herbicides that are less likely to injure grapes” [3]. If growers of other crops are unaware of damage to grapevines, collecting information such as this blog post, may be an important educational tool to share. Mike White, viticulture extension specialist at Iowa State University, suggests to share an aerial map of the property showing the vine­yard location with neighbors and commercial pesticide applicators to increase their awareness. It is also recommended to communicate the presence of the vineyard to state and county highway departments.
  • Windbreak (shrubs, trees, physical barriers) and a buffer area between the vineyard and the edge of the field being sprayed are always a good idea. Penn State offers a free publication or pdf print-out regarding windbreaks:
  • For those states where the service is available, growers can register the location of their vineyard on This online service is not available in Pennsylvania, but in many Midwestern states growers and pesticide applica­tors can use this web resource free of charge to report (growers) and locate (applicators) potential drift hazards.

Taking all these steps may not guarantee that herbicide drift will not occur in your vineyard, but increasing pesticide applicators awareness of grape sensitivity to PGR herbicides, the resulting economic loss, and potential litigation risks may very well serve the purpose.

Applicators should always follow all the measures available to minimize the risk of herbicide drift into a nearby vineyard or to other sensitive crops. Legal complaints may result in expensive settlements. In an extreme example, an owner of a 150-acre vineyard in Australia was awarded AUS$ 7M in damages over pesticide drift (Grape grower Awarded $7M in damages over spraying) that occurred from 2013 to 2015.

If PGR herbicides are applied after vine bud burst, applicators should consider eliminating volatile compounds and apply only non-volatile products.

Extension personnel could also facilitate communication between grape and crop field growers as it happens in Long Island, NY. Extension personnel from Cornell University-Long Island, including Alice Wise and Andy Senesac, organized a meeting with local grape and sod growers to tackle the herbicide drift issue which was affecting local grape growers without having to resort to regulatory restrictions. The result of that meeting was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ not to spray herbicides containing 2,4-D after April 15, around bud burst for the earliest grapevine varieties in Long Island. To keep all parties informed, extension sends out a weekly reminder about this issue.

What to do if the drift occur

Here some key steps Mike White put together on what to do right after a drift incident [7]:

  1. Identify area affected.
  2. Document the date, time and growth stage of the grapes.
  3. If possible, identify the source of the drift and make a determination if you want to settle the problem amongst your neighbors.
  4. Contact your state department of agriculture (Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, PDA) as soon as possible if you cannot determine the source of the drift and/or you want to formalize the complaint (30 – 45 day deadline in many states).
  5. Flag both affected and unaffected plants, take high reso­lution pictures weekly until symptoms subside and measure final yields per plant.
  6. Severe injury settlements should be delayed until after next season’s harvest. Photo and yield documentation should be continued. Unless the settlement offered seems exceptionally lucrative, I would suggest delaying any settlements until after next season’s harvest to assess for potential carry-over vine damage.

For information on where to find a drift consultant please refer to Need Help? Pesticide Drift Consultants

How to estimate the loss in revenue

Tim Martinson, viticulture extension specialist at Cornell University, provided useful examples on how to estimate the economic loss associated with herbicide drift damage under different scenarios. Scenarios include vine recovery across multiple years, with and without the need of vines replacement. Please refer to: Diagnosis, Economics, Management of Grape Injury from 2,4D and other Growth Regulator Herbicides.

How to manage damaged vines

There is limited information available on best management practices for vines affected by herbicide drift damage. To favor a full and a rapid recovery it is recommended to still implement  good management practices and avoid further stress to damaged vines, as for example over cropping (assuming damaged vines have fruit). Fungicide applications made to protect the fruit should not be necessary if the fruit has been removed [8]. It is also recommended to adjust pruning strategies to smaller vines, with the intent of regaining full vine size [9].



  1. Growth regulator herbicides and grapes don’t mix. Penn State.
  2. Watch out for: Grapes. Purdue University. DW-10-W.
  3. Preventing herbicide drift and injury to grapes. Oregon State University. EM 8860.
  4. Avoid phenoxy herbicide damage to grapevines. Texas Cooperative Extension.
  5. Avoiding 2,4-D injury to grapevines. Colorado State University.,4-D%20Injury%20to%20Grapevines.pdf
  6. Questions and answers about vineyard injury from herbicide drift. Kansas State University. MF-2588.
  7. Need Help? Pesticide drift consultant. Northern Grapes Project.
  8. Top 10 questions about herbicide drift into vineyards. Iowa State University.
  9. The view from New York: Diagnosis, economics, management of grape injury from2,4‐D and other growth regulator herbicides. Northern Grapes Project.

2017 Summer Disease Management Review

By: Bryan Hed

As we move into the post-bloom period, we are reminded that the immediate pre-bloom spray and the first post bloom spray are the most important you’ll make all season. These two sprays protect the nascent crop during its most vulnerable period and are essential to a fruit disease management program for control of the four major grape diseases; powdery and downy mildew, black rot, and Phomopsis. Use ‘best’ materials, shortest intervals, best coverage, etc., for those two sprays, EVERY YEAR! No matter what varieties you grow, those two sprays are the most important for protection of your crop. For growers of Vitis vinifera and many of the French hybrids, the second and perhaps third post-bloom sprays are also of critical importance, especially in a wet year and in vineyards that have already developed some observable level of disease this season. That said, let’s review these major diseases.

First, there’s Black rot caused by the fungus Guignardia bidwellii. This fungus can infect all immature green parts of the vine: fruit, shoots, leaves, and tendrils. On leaves, infections start out as small light green spots visible on the upper surface gradually turning brown to reddish-tan as infected tissue dies (Figure 1). Small, black, pimple-like bodies (pycnidia) develop inside the spot or lesion, usually arranged in a loose ring just inside the dark brown edges of the spot (Figure 1). Spores of the fungus are formed within pycnidia, and are released and splashed around during rainfall periods. Leaves remain susceptible as long as they are expanding and the size of leaf lesions indicate when, during expansion, the leaf was infected. For example, small lesions result when leaves become infected near the end of their expansion. Large lesions indicate the leaf was infected early in expansion. However, numerous small lesions, when clustered, may coalesce to damage large portions of the leaf. The death of large portions of the leaf blade may cause the entire leaf to die and abscise, but this is rare. On petioles, black, elongated lesions may induce wilting or abscission of leaves. Infections on berries initially appear as small, tan spots that develop a dark outer ring and expand rapidly to rot the entire berry. The brown berry shrivels into a hard, black, wrinkled mummy studded with spore producing pycnidia (Figure 2). Once the caps come off during bloom, berries of most varieties are highly susceptible for about 3-4 weeks, gradually developing resistance 5-6 weeks after capfall. Infections that take place during peak susceptibility generally show symptoms within 10-14 days. As berries develop resistance to black rot, the time for infections to become manifest takes longer, and infections that occur toward the end of the susceptibility period (second half of July?) may not develop symptoms until veraison.

Fig. 1 Development of black rot lesions on grapevine leaf (Concord).


Fig. 2 Development of black rot lesions on grape berry (Concord).

On shoots, lesions appear as elongated or elliptical brown cankers. Pycnidia may be clumped in the center of the lesion and/or line the margins of the lesion (Figure 3). These pycnidia produce spores during the current season and can be a source of further infection to fruit. These lesions remain on the shoots after they have “hardened off” and can survive over winter to release spores again the following spring. Large shoot lesions may render the shoots susceptible to breakage by wind, but this is rare.

Fig. 3 Black rot shoot lesions (Concord).

As berries develop resistance, the appearance of new infections may change: circular lesions are black, expand more slowly, and may remain small, often failing to affect the entire berry (Figure 4). Likewise, leaf infections that take place at the very end of the susceptibility/expansion period may become manifest as small dark pinhead size spots that do not expand (Figure 4).

Fig. 4 Limited black rot lesion development from infections occurring toward the end of the susceptibility period (Concord).

Cultural and chemical control:

The black rot pathogen survives the winter in infected grape tissue (primarily fruit mummies) which serves as a source of inoculum (spores) the following season.  Inoculum that remains in the trellis poses a much greater risk than inoculum dropped to the ground. Therefore, one of the most important methods of cultural control of black rot is removal of infected material, particularly fruit and cluster material, from the trellis. Once on the ground, mummy viability is reduced to further improve control. To take matters a step further, row middles can be plowed and hilling up under the row can bury mummies directly under vines. Maintaining an open canopy where fruit and other susceptible tissue dry out as quickly as possible after rainfall, will also help reduce this disease and improve fungicide penetration and coverage of the fruit.

Chemical control options for black rot mostly include two modern active ingredient classes like the strobilurins (azoxystrobin, kresoxim-methyl, pyraclostrobin, trifloxystrobin) and the sterol inhibitors (tebuconazole, tetraconazole, difenoconazole, myclobutanil) as well as the old standards like captan, mancozeb, and ziram. All are quite effective. The strobilurins and sterol inhibitors are more rainfast than the old standards and the sterol inhibitors have the capacity to stop the progress of an existing infection if applied within about 3 days after the infection period.

Scouting can be an important part of a black rot control program. The presence of pre-bloom leaf infections, especially those in the fruit zone, may indicate the presence of an over-wintering source of inoculum in the trellis and high risk of fruit infection after capfall. Fruit infections can occur during bloom and anytime up to 5-6 (native varieties) to 7-8 (Vitis vinifera) weeks after bloom.

In most parts of Pennsylvania, downy mildew first became active during the second half of May; at about the 5-6 leaf stage of grapevine development. Up here along the southern shore of Lake Erie, our first infection period occurred on May 25 (rainfall with temperatures above about 52 F) and first symptoms were observed at our farm on unprotected suckers of Chardonnay on June 1 (about 6-7 days after infection). On leaves, the first infections of downy mildew appear as yellowish ‘oil spots’ on the top of the leaf that coincide with a white, fluffy or downy patch of sporulation on the lower surface. On young shoots and clusters, early symptoms may first cause cluster rachises and shoots to thicken and curl (Figure 5).  As the pathogen, Plasmopara viticola, aggressively colonizes young, expanding grape tissue, infected shoots, clusters, and leaves may turn brown and die. When berries are infected later in the season their development is hindered and they fail to soften at veraison, turning a pale mottled green (white varieties) to red or pink (red varieties, Figure 6). Inflorescences and fruit clusters are most susceptible from about 2 weeks pre bloom to about 2 weeks post bloom. Highly susceptible varieties will require protection through 3-4 weeks post bloom because cluster stem tissue may remain susceptible until later in the season (after fruit have already become resistant) and cluster stem infections can still result in fruit loss. Young leaves and shoots are very susceptible, but become somewhat more resistant as they mature.

Fig. 5 Infection of downy mildew on young cluster and shoot showing curling and thickening of diseased tissue (Chancellor). The white sporulation after a warm humid night can be striking.


Fig. 6 Berries of red varieties (Concord (left) and Chancellor (center) at harvest) often turn red or pink after infection and fail to soften and develop properly. Late season leaf infections (far right photo) are yellowish to reddish brown and appear angular or blocky.

Cultural and chemical control:

Because the first inoculum arises from the vineyard soil, cultivation in early spring can help to bury over-wintering inoculum in old leaves and clusters on the ground, reducing primary inoculum in spring (much like with black rot). The first infections in spring often occur on shoots and sucker growth near or on the ground, and prompt elimination of this tissue can delay the occurrence of the first infections in the canopy. Also, the maintenance of an open canopy, where fruit and other susceptible tissue dry out as quickly as possible after rainfall and dew, will help minimize disease development.

There are many chemical options for downy mildew control and the best materials should be applied around and shortly after bloom. Active ingredients found in Ridomil, Zampro, Presidio, and Revus (and Revus Top) have been most effective on downy mildew in our trials. Where strobilurins are still working on this disease (no resistance yet), Abound (except in Erie county), Pristine, and Reason have been very effective too. The phosphorus acid formulations like Phostrol, Prophyt, and Rampart to name a few, have also been very effective against downy mildew, but generally cannot be expected to provide good control beyond 10 days after application, especially under high disease pressure. A tank mix of Ranman (cyazofamid) and phosphorus acid has been shown to be very effective on downy mildew in many university trials. All these aforementioned materials are very rainfast. In addition to these fungicides are the old standards that are strictly surface protectants and are more subject to removal by rainfall. A mancozeb product is probably the best among this group, but fixed copper fungicides can also be quite effective against downy mildew on varieties that are not sensitive to copper. Ziram and captan can also be part of an effective downy mildew program, but are somewhat less effective than mancozeb.

Powdery mildew is caused by the fungus Uncinula necator.  Infection on leaves appears mainly on the upper surface as white, powdery patches, though the undersides of leaves can also become infected (Figure 7). As the leaf surface becomes covered with the fungus, leaf function (and photosynthesis) is impaired, with varieties of V. vinifera and highly susceptible French hybrids being most severely affected. Infection by U. necator can stunt growth of new tissues and severe infection of young expanding leaves often results in cupping and distortion of leaves. Cluster infections around bloom may lead to poor fruit set, while later infection can cause berry splitting.

Fig. 7 Powdery mildew on young, developing ‘Concord’ berries.

Though primary infections in spring (at least 0.1″ rainfall and greater than 50 F) require rainfall for spore release, secondary disease cycles that result from primary infections, do not require rainfall.  Under optimum weather conditions (temperatures in the mid 60s to mid 80s F) secondary disease cycles can be repeated every 5 to 7 days, allowing for explosive increase of disease in the vineyard, especially in highly susceptible wine varieties. Note that optimum temperatures for the fungus are the norm through most of the summer in Pennsylvania and that starting around bloom, nearly every day is an infection period, rain or shine.

In most grape varieties, berries are highly susceptible to infection from the immediate pre-bloom stage until about 2-3 weeks after fruit set, and efforts to protect fruit with fungicides should concentrate on this critical period with timely applications every 7-14 days. Cluster rachises and leaves remain susceptible until harvest and their need for continued protection depends on varietal susceptibility, crop size, and weather. For example, after the fruit susceptibility period, further management of leaf and rachis infections may not be necessary on Concord and other native juice varieties unless vines are heavily cropped or ripening conditions are poor.  On the other hand, V. vinifera and susceptible hybrids, may require management of foliar mildew until at least veraison or beyond.

Cultural and chemical control:

There are cultural considerations that can reduce opportunities for powdery mildew disease development.  Most involve limiting humidity and promoting sun exposure to all parts of the vine. For example, a training system that improves air movement through the canopy, prevents excess shading and humidity and promotes fungicide penetration to the cluster zone which will help reduce powdery mildew development. Sunlight is lethal to powdery mildew and regular exposure of leaves and fruit can greatly reduce mildew development. Good weed control can also minimize humidity levels that contribute to mildew development.

Unfortunately, cultural measures can only serve as an enhancement to a chemical control program in Pennsylvania and other parts of the northeast. However, we have many effective fungicides for powdery mildew that can provide high levels of control through the critical period around bloom: Vivando, Quintec, Luna Experience, Endura, and now Aprovia. Aprovia is also labeled for black rot control, but our recent tests have indicated that Aprovia’s black rot efficacy is limited especially under high disease pressure on susceptible varieties. The difenoconazole products (Revus Top, Quadris Top, Inspire Super) can also be very effective on powdery mildew, though they may best be used outside the critical two spray period around bloom. Be aware that difenoconazole has been found to cause injury to Concord and a few other varieties (read the label). Sulfur can be an effective powdery mildew material too (on sulfur tolerant varieties) and many wine grape growers rely heavily on it, especially as a tank mix pre-bloom with mancozeb for all diseases. However, it is not recommended as a ‘stand-alone’ material during the critical fruit protection period for powdery mildew control.

There are lots of ‘alternatives’ for powdery mildew control that may be appropriate for late season sprays (to maintain a clean vineyard) that may gradually be used to replace the sulfur and/or synthetics or rotate with synthetics, particularly for reds where late sulfur applications can create wine quality issues. These are materials for which there is little risk of the development of resistance. In fact, these materials can be used to manage the development of resistance to our more risky synthetic fungicides mentioned earlier. Petroleum based oils like JMS Stylet-oil are very effective at 1-2 % solution, but excessive use late in the season (do not apply around or after veraison) may limit sugar accumulation and fruit maturity.  And, oils should not be tank mixed with sulfur or applied within 14 days of a sulfur-containing fungicide application. Copper, is moderately effective on powdery mildew and generally applied with lime to reduce the risk of phytotoxicity (read the label). Like sulfur, copper fungicides should not be applied under slow drying conditions as this increases the chance for plant injury. Other materials include potassium bicarbonates such as Kaligreen, Armicarb O, and Milstop.  These materials generally produce modest results, and are most effectively applied at short intervals (7 days) to achieve satisfactory control on susceptible varieties.  Again, these materials are not appropriate for the critical fruit protection period, but are best integrated during the early season when disease pressure is low OR after the critical fruit protection period to help control leaf infections.

Phomopsis cane and leaf spot is caused by the fungus, Phomopsis viticola. Earlier this spring, growers in many parts of Pennsylvania experienced problems with Phomopsis development on new shoots and leaves. Prolonged wetting/rainfall during the first week of May led to widespread infection by this pathogen on Concord in the Lake Erie region; virtually every shoot of every vine in every Concord vineyard we have examined has some level of Phomopsis development on the first one or two internodes. The infection period(s) occurred when shoots were in the 1-3″ range and inflorescences were just becoming exposed. In some cases, heavy infection of inflorescences is likely to result in problems with fruit rot after veraison (months after the infection period took place!). Fruit are generally at risk of new infections until a couple weeks or so after bloom, but infections of the cluster stem tissue that occur in the early pre-bloom period can move into berries during ripening and cause fruit to rot and shell before harvest. The concentration of heavy infection at the base of the oldest internodes, may result in large scabby areas that weaken the shoot (Figure 8) and green shoots that are severely infected are more apt to break under windy conditions. Leaf infections appear as pinhead sized black spots surrounded by a yellow halo (Figure 9). These infections appear to be of little consequence, other than revealing the presence of the pathogen. Lesions on cluster stems are black and sunken, and can girdle parts of the cluster rachis causing the cluster or parts of the cluster to break off or shrivel.

Fig. 8 Numerous lesions concentrated at the base of the oldest internodes result in larger scabby areas that weaken the shoot.


Fig. 9 Leaf infections of Phomopsis cane and leaf spot on Concord grape.

When berries are infected, they can remain symptomless until ripening when they turn brown and become studded with small pimple-like fruiting structures of the fungus (Figure 10) often resembling black rot infected berries.

Fig. 10 Phomopsis fruit rot on ripe Vignoles and Niagara grapes.

However, even though direct fruit infection by both pathogens can occur during the same peak susceptibility period (bloom through 3-4 weeks after bloom), black rot fruit rot symptoms become observable while berries are still green, whereas Phomopsis fruit infections lay dormant until after ripening. Also, leaf symptoms of these two diseases are very different from each other and can be used to determine which pathogen(s) are present and most likely to have caused disease on nearby fruit.

Cultural and chemical control:

Hand pruning to remove dead wood and pruning stubs from the trellis removes much of the over-wintering inoculum of Phomopsis. For this reason, cane pruning can reduce the disease compared to a cordon system that retains a maximum amount of older wood. Trellis systems that train shoots upward also reduce infections on the oldest shoot internodes and clusters. And of course, the maintenance of an open canopy where fruit and other susceptible tissue dry out as quickly as possible after rainfall, will help minimize disease development.  For wine grapes, fruit zone leaf removal and shoot thinning reduce canopy density, hasten drying after rainfall, and improve fungicide penetration and coverage of the fruit.

Phomopsis management with fungicides should continue through the first or second post bloom spray, after which inoculum of the fungus is generally spent. Strobilurins, mancozeb products, Captan, and Ziram are generally the only effective materials for Phomopsis control. Some formulations of sterol inhibitor fungicides claim Phomopsis control, but their level of efficacy is still under question and would not be recommended for management of this disease.


Much of the information in this blog can be found in the 2017 New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes. Be sure to get your copy through Cornell University press. You can also read the publication; Disease Management Guidelines for Organic Grape Production in the Lake Erie Region found online at which contains much of the information discussed in this blog.



2017 New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes. Edited by Tim Weigle and Andy Muza. Cornell and Penn State University Cooperative Extension.

Hoffman, L.E., W.F. Wilcox, D.M. Gadoury and R.C. Seem. 2002. Influence of grape berry age and susceptibility to Guignardia bidwellii and its incubation period length. Phytopathology 92:1068-1076.

Hoffman, L.E., W.F. Wilcox, D.M. Gadoury, R.C. Seem, and D.G. Riegel. 2004. Integrated control of grape black rot: Influence of host phenology, inoculum availability, sanitation, and spray timing. Phytopathology 94: 641-650.

Grape Leafhoppers

By: Andy Muza, Penn State Extension – Erie County

There are several species of leafhoppers in the genus Erythroneura that feed on grape foliage. Research conducted in New York showed that the eastern grape leafhopper Erythroneura comes (Say) is the most common on American varieties (e.g., Concord, Niagara) while E. bistrata/vitifex complex were more common on Vitis vinifera and interspecific hybrids. Other species found in commercial grapes included E. tricinta, E. vulnerata and E. vitis. (1). Regardless of which of these species is prevalent, their life cycles are similar and the injury caused by these leafhoppers and their management is the same.

Life Cycle and Description

The various Erythroneura leafhoppers overwinter as adults in leaf litter in the vineyard or in plant debris around the vineyard. As temperatures increase in the spring, adults begin feeding on a variety of weeds, bushes and trees. Adults then migrate into vineyards to feed when leaves emerge (2). Eastern grape leafhopper adults are small (only about 1/8”), white-pale yellow, with darker lemon colored markings on the wings, and 3 black spots towards the posterior portion of the wings (Figures 1 & 2).  Other Erythroneura species have varying coloration and markings (3).


Figure 2. Adult grape leafhoppers on underside of Concord leaf. Photo: Andy Muza, Penn State.

Initial feeding occurs on sucker growth and basal leaves on shoots in the trellis. Females lay eggs on the undersides of leaves just below the leaf surface. Nymphs of the first generation hatch in mid-late June. Immatures are wingless, pale yellow in coloration with tiny wing pads (Figure 3). Nymphs develop through 5 instars with wings fully developed after the fifth molt (2). Nymphal development to adulthood takes about 30 days or less depending on environmental conditions. In northwestern Pennsylvania nymphs of the second generation can be found in vineyards in mid-late August. There are 1.5 – 2 generations/season in the Lake Erie Region, depending on seasonal temperatures, and in the southwestern portion of the state likely 2.5 – 3 generations.

Grape leafhopper (GLH) adults and nymphs have piercing – sucking type mouthparts and feed on the underside of leaves extracting the contents of leaf cells resulting in white – yellow spotting of the foliage (stippling). Moderate – Heavy feeding causes yellowing and browning of tissue while severe injury can result in premature defoliation (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Concord leaf with stippling and browning of leaf tissue caused by GLH feeding. Photo: Andy Muza, Penn State.


The greatest risk for economic losses due to grape leafhopper (GLH) feeding occurs during hot, dry years in vineyards with heavy crop loads and high leafhopper populations (4). In most years, the majority of vineyards in Pennsylvania should not require an insecticide treatment specifically for management of grape leafhopper. Therefore, routine, prophylactic insecticide treatments for leafhoppers are unnecessary and not recommended. Insecticide applications should be based on scouting information and threshold levels.

Scouting – Tim Martinson at Cornell designed a scouting procedure for leafhoppers which corresponds to the timings when sampling for grape berry moth injury are conducted (5).

10 Days Postbloom – Usually population levels and feeding is minimal at this time of the season. If however, early in the season, high numbers of adult leafhoppers migrate into the vineyard this can result in enough leaf feeding to reduce bud fruitfulness in the following year (4). Scouting should be conducted to look for leaf feeding on interior leaves in the canopy. If leaf stippling is noticeable throughout the vineyard then an insecticide application is recommended.

Third week in July – Check 4 different areas in the vineyard (2 exterior and 2 interior). At each area look at lower leaves on shoots and check for leaf feeding. If no – minimal injury is observed, proceed to the next sampling site (Figure 5). If moderate-heavy leaf stippling is observed then begin counting nymphs on the undersides of leaves (Figure 6). Examine 5 leaves (leaves 3-7 from base of shoot)/shoot on 5 different shoots at each location. If a threshold of 5 nymphs/leaf is reached then an insecticide application is recommended.

Figure 5. Minimal GLH stippling on Concord leaf. Photo: Andy Muza, Penn State.


Figure 6. GLH nymphs, cast nymphal skins and adults on underside of leaf. Photo:

Late August – The scouting protocol at this time follows the same procedure as the July sampling. However, the threshold for the August sampling period is 10 nymphs/leaf before an insecticide application is recommended.

Based on scouting data, if an insecticide application becomes necessary during the season, there are a number of options available. Consult the “2017 New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes” (6) for a list of insecticides which are effective for grape leafhopper management.

Shoot and leaf removal practices conducted in many wine grape vineyards may reduce leafhopper population levels, if the removed leaves are harboring nymphs of this pest. In addition, these practices will open up the canopy for better spray penetration.

A number of predators (e.g., spiders, green lacewings, lady beetles, etc.) and egg parasitoids (Anagrus species) which occur in vineyards contribute to reducing leafhopper population levels (7). Therefore conserving these beneficial insects, by avoiding unnecessary applications of broad spectrum contact insecticides, is advised. Good weed control in the vineyard and the prevention of overgrown areas around the vineyard will also reduce leafhopper overwintering sites.


  1. Martinson, T. E. and T. J. Dennehy. Varietal Preferences of Erythroneura Leafhoppers (Homoptera: Cicadellidae) Feeding on Grapes in New York. Environ. Entomol. 24:550-558 (1995).
  2. Grape Leafhopper. Grape Insect IPM Insect Identification Sheet No. 4 (1984). NYS. Ag. Exp. Station, Cornell University.
  3. Leaf- Stippling Leafhoppers (Ontario GrapeIPM). Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food & Rural Affairs, Canada
  4. Martinson, T. E., et al. Impact of Feeding Injury by Eastern Grape Leafhopper (Homoptera:Cicadellidae) on Yield and Juice Quality of Concord Grape. Am. J. Enol. Vitic., 48:291-302 (1997).
  5. Martinson, T. E., et al. Risk Assessment of Grape Berry Moth and Guidelines for Management of the Eastern Grape Leafhopper. New York’s Food and Life Sci. Bull. 138. 10 pp. (1991).
  6. Weigle, T. H., and A. J. Muza. 2017. “2017 New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes”. Cornell and Penn State Extension. 150 pp.
  7. Williams, L., III, and T. E. Martinson. 2000. Colonization of New York Vineyards by Anagrus spp. (Hymenoptera:Mymaridae): Overwintering Biology, Within-Vineyard Distribution of Wasps, and Parasitism of Grape Leafhopper, Erythroneura spp. (Homoptera: Cicadellidae), Eggs. Biol. Control 18:136-146.

Early season grapevine canopy management, Part II: Early leaf removal (ELR)

By:  Maria Smith and Dr. Michela Centinari, Dept. of Plant Science

In the previous post, we discussed shoot thinning as a method to achieve vine balance and improve the canopy microclimate (Part I: Shoot Thinning). In this post, we will discuss the use early leaf removal (ELR), a canopy management practice implemented around bloom.  ELR primarily serves to reduce the severity of Botrytis bunch rot infection in susceptible varieties (Wines and Vines:  Benefits and Costs of Early Leaf Removal), but may also be an effective practice for reducing crop yield.

ELR is currently considered an experimental canopy management practice for vineyards.  While it shows great promise within the research and Extension literature (1, 2, Cornell Cooperative Extension 2016), Penn State Extension does not currently recommend implementing ELR as a replacement for traditional methods (i.e., cluster thinning, fungicide sprays) for yield and rot control. However, growers curious about the effects of ELR may find it useful as a supplementary canopy management practice, especially for disease management and crop reduction.

Throughout this post, we will discuss the effects of ELR on:

  • Crop level in highly-fruitful varieties that produce a high number of clusters (3-4 per shoot) or large clusters such as vinifera cvs. Grüner Veltliner, Sangiovese, and Barbera.
  • Botrytis bunch rot infection.
  • Fruit and wine composition.

What is Early Leaf Removal (ELR) and how does it work?

ELR is the removal of basal leaves of the main shoots and, optionally, lateral shoots developed from the basal nodes (; Figure 1).

Screenshot 2017-06-01 12.31.36

ELR is typically performed shortly before (pre-bloom) or at the beginning of bloom (trace-bloom; Figure 2A). In some cases, however, it has been performed later during full-bloom or at the onset of fruit-set (Figure 2B).

Screenshot 2017-06-01 12.31.48

Before and during bloom, the oldest basal leaves have a major role in providing carbohydrates (e.g., sugars) to support the growing shoot and inflorescence (i.e., flower clusters). In contrast, young leaves on the middle and top part of the shoot are still developing and not very photosynthetically ‘active’ at this time (3).  Literature suggests the removal of basal leaves at bloom may starve the inflorescence for a carbohydrates food source (4).  The lack of carbohydrate resources reduces fruit-set (i.e., the percentage of flowers that will develop into berries), which likely reduces the number of berries per cluster at harvest (5). When ELR is performed later, at the onset of fruit-set, removing basal leaves may induce a reduction in berry size and an increase in berry abscission due to carbohydrate limitation at the onset of fruit development (6). Therefore, yield reduction achieved with ELR is the result of reduced cluster weight (reduced number of berries per cluster and/or reduced berry weight). In contrast, yield reduction achieved by cluster thinning is the result of a reduced number of clusters per vine.

Why are ELR practices currently under research investigation?

An increased number of studies is investigating the use of ELR as a potential alternative to cluster thinning techniques used for crop yield control in highly-fruitful wine grape varieties (5, 6, 7). As opposed to traditional cluster thinning, ELR can be more easily mechanized. (Author’s note:  for more information on mechanization, see Additional Resources at the bottom of the post.) ELR may additionally confer benefits such as:

  1. Reduced severity of Botrytis rot infection

Cluster compactness, or the tightness of berries on the cluster, has been positively related to the severity of Botrytis bunch rot infections (8). It is suggested that more compact clusters experience more rot. ELR decreases cluster compactness by reducing the number of berries per cluster and/or the berry size. Decreased cluster compactness through implementing ELR has reduced Botrytis rot infections in several tight-cluster varieties such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Vignoles (1, 9, 10, 14). As an additional benefit, the removal of basal leaves increases sunlight penetration and air movement in the fruiting zone, which is important for improving spray penetration within the canopy (2016 Post Bloom Disease Management Review).

  1. Improved fruit and wine composition

ELR has consistently been reported to alter fruit composition, particularly for red Vitis vinifera varieties in Mediterranean climates (Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Barbera, etc.; 2, 5, 6, 12). In several instances, fruit harvested from ELR vines had higher levels of total soluble solids (TSS, °Brix), phenolic compounds (e.g., flavonols), and total anthocyanins compared to un-defoliated vines (2, 11, 12). ELR can also reduce methoxypyrazines, ‘herbaceous’ aromas found in higher concentrations among immature grapes at harvest, and may contribute to improved wine color intensity (13).  ELR may alter three important parameters associated with berry development and ripening (2):

  • Decreased berry size – Smaller berries tend to have greater skin-to-pulp ratio and higher concentrations of desirable phenolic and aroma compounds which are mainly present in the skin.
  • Increased leaf area-to-yield ratio on a per shoot basis – A greater leaf area-to-yield ratio may translate into higher sugar produced per shoot. More sugar availability could contribute to better fruit ripening.
  • Improved canopy microclimate – ELR, like traditional leaf removal, improves the microclimate of the fruiting zone through decreased leaf density and increased sunlight penetration to the fruit. Higher temperatures coupled with increased sunlight exposure in the fruiting zone can be especially important under cool or cloudy ripening conditions, as they may accelerate berry ripening, resulting in higher TSS, decreased malic acid, increased anthocyanin concentration, and degradation of green volatile aroma compounds such as methoxypyrazines that may mask fruity or floral aromas. Higher ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the fruiting zone in response to increased sunlight penetration may increase production of flavonols, as flavonols biologically act to protect berries from UV exposure (3, 11). Flavonol compounds along with anthocyanin influence red wine color and are used as determinants of quality in fruit (11).

It is important to keep in mind that yield reduction is not desirable in all grape varieties. The use of ELR with varieties that do not typically over-crop may result in under-cropped situations with potential negative effects on fruit quality and vine health, in addition to unnecessary yield reductions and thus revenue loss.

How many leaves should be removed to induce yield reduction?

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” number of leaves to remove when implementing ELR as a vineyard management practice.  The required number of leaves removed to significantly reduce yield through reduced fruit-set depends on several factors, including shoot length and the shoot leaf area at the time of removal. For example, by pulling 5 basal leaves on a shoot with only 8 leaves at trace-bloom, we would remove about 63% of the total number of leaves.  The percentage of leaf area removed would be even higher as the remaining leaves at the top of the shoot are much smaller than those removed from the bottom of the shoot. In contrast, a longer shoot with 15 leaves total will only lose 33% of the leaf area when 5 basal leaves are pulled. Thus, removing 5 leaves from a short shoot would have a more severe effect of depriving the inflorescence of sugar resources than removing the same number of leaves on long shoots (Figure 3).

Screenshot 2017-06-01 12.32.01

Sometimes the degree of ELR is severe in order to induce a yield reduction commensurate with the more traditional cluster thinning technique. For example, Pinot Noir grown in southwestern Michigan showed a reduction in yield from 6.1 tons per acre in non-defoliated vines to 3.6 tons per acre when about half (8 out of 15) of the leaves on the shoots were removed (1). This was a 40% reduction in yield. Comparatively, when 4 or 6 leaves were removed from the Pinot Noir, no significant effect was found in crop yield (1).

With the high potential for crop yield reduction, Dr. Michela Centinari’s lab has been experimenting with ELR for the past two years. We have been examining the effects of ELR at trace-bloom on Grüner Veltliner (V. vinifera) grown in Central Pennsylvania. Grüner Veltliner is highly fruitful, typically producing 2-3 large clusters per shoot. In our experimental practices, we removed 5 basal leaves at trace-bloom. Our objective was to compare the use of ELR to cluster thinning for crop yield reduction. Our first year of data found that the implementation of ELR decreased yields by only about 15% (10.7 tons per acre in the non-defoliated control to 9.3 tons per acre in defoliated vines). In comparison, vines thinned to 1 cluster per shoot had a 45-50% reduction in yield compared to the un-thinned control (10.7 tons per acre to 6.5 tons per acre).

This suggests that a greater leaf removal intensity may be needed for this variety to produce yield reduction comparable to cluster thinning, and we are currently testing different intensity levels of trace-bloom ELR to evaluate if the amount of leaf area removed correlates with reduction of fruit-set and yield at harvest.

Again, ELR is still considered an experimental canopy management technique. For those growers growing high yielding varieties and looking to reduce crop level, cluster thinning is still the recommended practice. For more information on how to implement appropriate CT techniques, please see Cornell Cooperative Extension Fruit thinning in wine grapes and Crop thinning: cluster thinning or cluster removal.

Considerations regarding ELR

Other factors to consider if you are interested in applying ELR:

  • Fruit-set percentage – One of the factors facing the unpredictability of ELR is the weather conditions between bloom and fruit set. Since weather can have a large effect on the percentage of fruit-set (Fruit set in grapes 101), ELR may potentially exacerbate ‘poor’ fruit-set if extended periods of wet, cool (< 59°F), overcast, or very hot (> 90°F) weather conditions occur following leaf removal.  Additionally, berry sunburn may be a potential concern with ELR when performed under chronic high light and temperature intensity.
  • Bud Fruitfulness – While it is generally acknowledged that increased sunlight exposure is positive for bud development, a potential reduction in bud fruitfulness (number of clusters per shoot) may occur in the following season as a result of bud damage from ELR (14). Although still uncertain, bud damage may be the result of physical damage during leaf removal and/or reduction of carbohydrate supply during bud development.
  • Carbohydrate Storage in Cool Climate Grown Vines – Carbohydrates are the main energy source for grapevine growth, stress defense, and fruit ripening. Post-harvest carbohydrate storage in perennial tissues is a determinant of vine overwinter survival and is fundamental for shoot development in the following season. Removing leaves during ELR may alter the amount of carbohydrates produced by the leaves over the season and how carbohydrates are distributed among the vine organs. Currently, limited information is available on how ELR affects carbohydrates storage in perennial tissues and how this relates to dormant tissue (buds and canes) cold hardiness. This is a point of current interest to Centinari’s lab at Penn State, with current research being conducted in vinifera and hybrid wine grape varieties.
  • Crop Estimation – Yield predictions based on ELR use is currently not available. In this regard cluster thinning is a more conservative approach. Unlike ELR, which is performed very early in the season, cluster thinning severity can be decided upon estimation of final yield.



ELR holds potential as a way to reduce yield and Botrytis rot infection for some grape varieties grown in the Mid-Atlantic and other cool-climate regions. However, more research is needed to better understand the consistency of ELR practices on vine physiology, yield reductions, and fruit quality. Current efforts are on-going by the Centinari lab and Bryan Hed at the Lake Erie Grape Regional Extension Center (LEGREC) to evaluate the use of manual and mechanized ELR in hybrid and V. vinifera varieties across Pennsylvania.

Additional Resources

PSU Wines and Grapes blogs:  An Overview of Cluster-Zone Leaf Removal Strategies for Cool Climate Vineyards and 2016 Post Bloom Disease Management Review

Intrieri C, Filippetti I, Allegro G, et al. 2008.  Early defoliation (hand vs mechanical) for improved crop control and grape composition in Sangiovese (Vitis vinifera L.).  Aus. J. Grape Wine Res. doi: 10.1111/j.755-0238.2008.00004.x

References Cited

  1. Acimovic D, Tozzini L, Green A, et al. 2017. Identification of a defoliation severity threshold for changing fruitset, bunch morphology and fruit composition in Pinot Noir.  J. Grape Wine Res. doi:  10.1111/ajgw.12235
  2. Bubola M, Sivilotti P, Janjanin D, and Poni S.   Early leaf removal has larger effect than cluster thinning on cv. Teran grape phenolic composition.  AJEV.  doi: 10.5344/ajev.2016.16071
  3. Illand P, Dry P, Proffit P, and Tyerman S. Photosynthesis. In The Grapevine, from the science to the practice of growing vines for wine. pp. 91-107.
  4. Coombe BG.   The effect of removing leaves, flowers and shoot tips on fruit-set in Vitis vinifera L. J. Hortic. Sci. 37:1-15.
  5. Poni S, Casalini L, Bernizzoni F, et al. 2006. Effects of early defoliation on shoot photosynthesis, yield components, and grape composition. AJEV. 57: 397-407.
  6. Tardaguila J, Martinez de Toda F, Poni S, and Diago MP. 2010. Impact of early leaf removal on yield and fruit and wine composition of Vitis vinifera Graciano and Carignan. AJEV. 61(3):372-381.
  7. Silvestroni O, Lanari V, Lattanzi T, et al. Impact of crop control strategies on performance of high-yielding Sangiovese grapevines. AJEV. doi: 10.5344/ajev.2016.15093
  8. Vail ME and JJ Marois. 1991. Grape cluster architecture and the susceptibility of berries to Botrytis cinerea. Phytopathology 81:188-191.
  9. Sternad Lemut M, Sivilotti P, Butinar L, et al. Pre-flowering leaf removal alters grape microbial population and offers good potential for a more sustainable and cost-effective management of a Pinot Noir vineyard. J. Grape Wine Res. doi: 10.1111/ajgw.12148
  10. Hed B, Ngugi HK, and Travis JW.   Short- and long-term effects of leaf removal and gibberellin on Chardonnay grapes in the Lake Erie region of Pennsylvania. AJEV.  66(1): 22-29.
  11. Moreno D, Vilanova M, Gamero E, et al. Effects of preflowering leaf removal on phenolic composition of Tempranillo cv. in semi-arid terroir of western Spain.  AJEV. doi: 10.5344/ajev.2014.14087
  12. Risco D, Pérez D, Yeves A, et al. Early defoliation in a temperate warm and semi-arid Tempranillo vineyard: vine performance and grape composition. Aus J Grape and Wine Res. doi: 10.1111/ajgw.12049
  13. Sivilotti P, Herrera JC, Lisjak K, et al. 2016. Impact of leaf removal, applied before and after flowering, on anthocyanin, tannin, and methoxypyrazine concentrations in ‘Merlot’ (Vitis vinifera) grapes and wines. J. Agric. Food Chem.  64:4487-4496.
  14. Sabbatini P, and Howell GS. 2010. Effects of early defoliation on yield, fruit composition, and harvest season cluster rot complex of grapevines.  HortScience 45(12):1804-1808.

Maria Smith is a viticulture PhD candidate with Dr. Michela Centinari in the Department of Plant Science.  She specializes in cold stress physiology of wine grapes.  She was the previous recipient of the John H. and Timothy R. Crouch Program Support Endowment, an endowment founded and funded by the Crouch brothers, original owners of Allegro Winery in Brogue, PA.  She is currently funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) program, a program from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).


Early season grapevine canopy management, Part I: Shoot thinning

By: Maria Smith and Dr. Michela Centinari, Dept. of Plant Science

This is the first of two posts on grapevine canopy management in the early growing season from bud burst to bloom.  The second in the series will be post in two weeks and will focus on pre- or trace-bloom leaf removal for crop level and disease pressure control.

This week, our blog post will focus on shoot thinning, the first canopy management practice of the growing season.  As seen in the pictures below, we spent last week shoot thinning Grüner Veltliner (V. vinifera) vines in a central Pennsylvania vineyard (Figure 1).

Figure 1. (A) Andrew Harner, graduate student at Penn State in the Centinari lab, is shoot thinning Grüner Veltliner (V. vinifera) vines, May 10, 2017, Lewisburg, PA. (B) Grüner Veltliner shoot length at the time of thinning (pencil as a reference for shoot length).

In the following sections, we will highlight the benefits and costs associated with shoot thinning while providing a few general shoot thinning guidelines for both V. vinifera and hybrid cultivars in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Benefits of Shoot Thinning Grapevines

While dormant pruning ( is the primary tool used by grape growers to maintain vine structure, canopy architecture and regulate crop level, shoot thinning provides an additional canopy management tool to bring vines into vegetative and fruiting balance by reducing shoot density and the number of clusters per vine. Cluster thinning later in the season may be needed in order to balance highly-fruitful vines.

In addition to improving balance between vegetative growth and fruit biomass, other benefits of shoot thinning include:

  • Reduction of canopy density and fruit shading: through removal of selected shoots, shoot thinning reduces overcrowding of shoots in the canopy thus reducing the number of leaf layers and improving sunlight exposure to fruit (1).
  • Reduction of disease pressure: reducing canopy density improves air circulation and sunlight penetration that promotes quicker drying of leaves and fruit, as well as increases spray penetration.

Timing of Shoot Thinning

Shoot thinning should be done early in the growing season, when shoots are approximately 5-6 inches long and not more than 10-12 inches long. Shoot thinning should be timed after the date of last ‘expected’ frost, such that secondary or non-damaged primary shoots can be retained in the event of a late spring frost.

When shoot thinning is performed before inflorescences are visible (shoots 0.8 inch to 4 inches), increased vigor of the remaining shoots and lateral shoot growth may occur as a response, negating the benefits of shade reduction (1). When performed too late (shoot longer than 10 inches), shoots become lignified at the base and difficult to remove.  If performing late thinning, pruning shears should be used if there is risk of damaging the arm of the vine. It also takes longer to thin longer shoots, potentially decreasing the cost-effectiveness of this practice.

Shoot Spacing and Density Recommendations

Generally, shoot thinning on cane-pruned vines is easier, faster, and more straight-forward than spur-pruned vines, which require substantially more decisions regarding what shoots to retain or remove, and where shoots should be spaced along the cordon (2; Figure 2).

Figure 2. Before shoot thinning: spur-pruned (left) vs. cane pruned (right) in Grüner Veltliner, May 26, 2016, Lewisburg, PA.

Plant genotype, soil, and climate are all factors influencing vine vigor potential and capacity to fully ripen a crop.  Therefore, these factors indirectly affect the appropriate number of shoots to retain at thinning.  Many Cooperative Extension websites provide recommendations on range of optimal shoot density based on cultivars grown in their region. [Author’s note: for the eastern US see the additional resources section at the bottom of the post.]

Shoot density targets for Pennsylvania regions:

  • For vinifera cultivars it is recommended to leave 3 to 5 shoots per linear foot of canopy (3, 4; Figure 3). The general rule of thumb is to retain fewer shoots in red varieties and more in white varieties. However, other factors (i.e., cultivar disease susceptibility) must be taken into consideration.

Figure 3. Suzanne Fleishman, graduate student at Penn State in the Centinari lab, is shoot thinning spur-pruned Grüner Veltliner vines (May 26, 2016). Note the differences shoot density between the cordons on the right (thinned) and on the left (unthinned) cordons.

  • For most of the hybrid cultivars it is recommended to leave 4 to 6 shoots per linear foot of canopy (5).
  • For Concord and other native cultivars, as many as 15 shoots per linear foot of canopy can be retained (4).
  • In divided canopies trellis systems, the same shoot density along each cordon should be retained (Figure 4).

In addition to the number, the position of the shoots along the cordon is important.  Ideally, the shoots retained should be equally spaced to promote a uniform, balanced canopy.

Figure 4. Proper shoot density at harvest on Gewurtztraminer vines trained on divided Scott-Henry system in Andreas, PA.

What types of shoots should you remove?

  • Weak, non-fruitful shoots especially if they grow in crowded areas of the canopy.
  • Secondary and tertiary shoots, if a primary healthy shoot has emerged.
  • Shoots arising from the trunk that are not retained for renewal wood (e., new trunks and canes or cordons).

Does shoot thinning improve fruit composition and wine sensory perception?

The associated costs with manual labor and labor shortages are reasonable considerations before implementing vineyard management practices.  This is also true for implementing shoot thinning techniques into a vineyard.  Nonetheless, it is also important to consider the potential benefits from implementing a new practice.

The effects of shoot thinning practices on hybrid varieties are a bit unclear. A previous study on shoot thinning found that shoot thinned Marechal Foch (red interspecific hybrid of Vitis) vines exhibited higher total soluble solids (ᵒBrix) and berry anthocyanin concentrations as compared to un-thinned vines (6). The increase in berry anthocyanin, however, did not translate into higher anthocyanin concentration in the final wine, and furthermore, shoot thinning did not impact the sensory perception of “fruitiness” of the wines (6). In contrast, a study focusing on Corot noir (red interspecific hybrid of Vitis) implementation of shoot thinning provided inconsistent results in grape and wine quality across a two-year (2008-2009) evaluation, which was determined by ᵒBrix, pH, titratable acidity (TA), wine anthocyanin, berry and wine tannin content (7).  Shoot thinning increased berry ᵒBrix, wine alcohol concentration and anthocyanin content only in second year of this study.  While berry TA at harvest was lower (e.g., 2008, un-thinned = 8.6 g/L, shoot thinned = 7.6 g/L), there were no differences in the TA of wine in either year (7).  Shoot thinning also decreased berry seed tannin in 2008 and berry skin and wine tannin in 2009, which could have negative implications for final wine, considering generally low tannin concentrations in hybrid red wines (7).  In an effort to compensate for costs associated with shoot thinning and yield loss, this study on Corot Noir suggested growers increase the price of grapes by 11 to 20% per ton, depending on the average annual market price and yield loss (7).

A study in Fayetteville (Arkansas) on three highly-fruitful French-American hybrid cultivars (Aurore, Chancellor, and Villard noir) found that shoot thinning increased fruit sugar accumulation (ᵒBrix) only in Chancellor and without changes in pH or TA, while a more intense juice color was associated with shoot thinned vines of both red cultivars (Chancellor and Villard noir; 8). In addition, shoot thinning favorably decreased the Ravaz index (yield to pruning weight ratio) for all three cultivars, improving vine balance (8).

The results of these studies suggest that in some situations the costs of shoot thinning may not outweigh the benefits, especially for hybrids that do not command a high market value (Finger Lakes Grape Prices 2016).  However, none of these studies account for potential reduction in disease infections, which may help justify the implementation of shoot thinning in a given vineyard.  For example, it has been found that higher shoot density may contribute to the increased incidence of Botrytis rot infections in susceptible cultivars such as Seyval Blanc (9) and Vignoles (4).

In other cases, shoot thinning improved fruit composition in Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc for two consecutive vintages (1), and also increased color intensity, phenolic content, and total anthocyanins of Cabernet Franc berries (1). Benefits of shoot thinning on fruit quality and wine sensory perception have been reported for other vinifera cultivars, such us Barbera (10) and Sauvginon blanc (11).

Unless your vineyard is located in a low or moderate vigor site, shoot thinning is strongly recommended for vinifera cultivars growing in the Mid-Atlantic region.

If you want to assess the effects of shoot thinning on fruit composition, plan to leave half of a row of vines un-thinned and thin the remaining half to a consistent number of shoots per foot (e.g., 4 shoots per foot). Alternatively, use two rows (of the same variety and cultivar) to assess the impact of shoot thinning in your vineyard: one row thinned and the adjacent row un-thinned.  These two methods should help evaluate the effect of shoot thinning on berry composition at harvest and if possible, on wine chemistry and sensory perception assuming that the lots of berries can stay separated through wine production.

Effects of shoot thinning on vine physiology

Impacts of shoot thinning on vine physiology and performance are complex.  A study conducted in Italy evaluated the whole-canopy photosynthetic response to shoot thinning using spur-pruned Barbera vines (V. vinifera; 10). Vines were thinned to 5 shoots per foot, reducing the total shoot number by 50% as compared to un-thinned control.  In this study (10) shoot thinning significantly improved grape sugar content, color, and phenolics. Despite the benefits provided by shoot thinning on fruit composition, which has been already reported by other studies, what makes this study unique and interesting it that they investigated the mechanisms behind the improvement in grape quality through the measurement of whole-canopy net carbon assimilation.  Although the shoot-thinned vines had initially lower photosynthesis (carbon assimilation) than un-thinned vines due to the removal of photosynthetic source (leaf), they had regained photosynthetic capacity to levels similar to the un-thinned vines within 17 days of treatment.  This occurred as a result of a substantial increase in both main leaf size and amount of lateral leaves as a result of shoot thinning (10).  Therefore, individual shoots of thinned-vines had a higher supply of assimilates (e.g., sugar) per unit of crop, which can increase sugar accumulation during ripening. This may explain why shoot thinning improved grape composition in Barbera under these growing conditions.

Additional Shoot Thinning Resources


References Cited

  1. Reynolds AG., et al. 2005. Timing of shoot thinning in Vitis vinifera:  impacts on yield and fruit composition variables.  56, 343-356.
  2. Intrieri, C and Poni, S. Integrated evolution of trellis training systems and machines to improve grape and vintage quality of mechanized Italian vineyards.  AJEV.  46, 116-127.
  3. Fiola, J. 2017. Canopy Management – Shoot thinning and positioning. “Timely Vit” from UMD Extension.
  4. Walter-Peterson, H. 2013.  Shoot thinning:  Good for the vines, but good for the wines?  Finger Lakes Vineyard Notes.
  5. Martinson, T and Vanden Heuvel, J. Shoot density and canopy management for hybrids. CCE.
  6. Sun Q., et al. 2011. Impact of shoot thinning and harvest date on yield components, fruit composition, and wine quality of Marechal Foch.  AJEV. 62:1, 32-41.
  7. Sun Q., et al. 2012. Impact of shoot and cluster thinning on yield, fruit composition, and wine quality of Corot noir.  AJEV. 63:1, 49-56.
  8. Morris, JR. et al. 2004. Flower cluster and shoot thinning for crop control in French-American hybrid grapes.  AJEV. 55:4, 423-426.
  9. Reynolds, AG et al. 1986. Effect of shoot density and crop control on growth, yield, fruit composition, and wine quality of ‘Seyval blanc’.  J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 111, 55-63.
  10. Bernizzoni, F. et al. 2011. Shoot thinning effects on seasonal whole-canopy photosynthesis and vine performance in Vitis vinifera L. cv. Barbera. Aus. J. Grape Wine Res. 17, 351-357.
  11. Naor et al. 2002. Shoot and cluster thining influence vegetative growth, fruit yield, and wine quality of ‘Sauvignon blanc’ grapevines.  J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 127(4), 628-634.


Maria Smith is a viticulture PhD candidate with Dr. Michela Centinari in the Department of Plant Science.  She specializes in cold stress physiology of wine grapes.  She was the previous recipient of the John H. and Timothy R. Crouch Program Support Endowment, an endowment founded and funded by the Crouch brothers, original owners of Allegro Winery in Brogue, PA.  She is currently funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) program, a program from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Three Phases to Managing Grape Berry Moth

By: Andy Muza, Penn State Extension – Erie County

As the season begins, growers should be prepared to manage a serious pest which can cause substantial economic losses. The grape berry moth (GBM) is a prevalent pest of grapes throughout Pennsylvania and the eastern United States. The larval stage feeds on berries and causes yield losses due to consumption and shelling of berries and by providing entry sites for fungi that can cause cluster rots.

I consider management of this pest to be a three phase process which includes: 1) PRE –TREATMENT  Phase; 2) TREATMENT  Phase;  3) POST – TREATMENT  Phase.


Sprayer Maintenance

Follow maintenance procedures outlined in your sprayer manual. Check pump, hoses, filters, nozzles, etc. to be sure that everything is in good working order before your first pesticide application.  Also practice routine sprayer maintenance during the season such as lubrication of bearings and cleaning and flushing of the sprayer after each use.

Calibration of Sprayer

Sprayers should be calibrated early in the season well before any insecticide or fungicide spraying is required. Calibration of sprayers ensures that the appropriate amount of spray material is being applied where it is needed to manage pests. The sprayer should be calibrated in the vineyard under conditions in which the sprayer will be operated. Ideally, sprayers should be calibrated 2-3 times during the season as canopy growth increases.

Classifying a Vineyard Using the GBM Risk Assessment Program 

The GBM Risk Assessment Program was developed by Hoffman and Dennehy (Cornell University), (“Bulletin 138, Risk Assessment of Grape Berry Moth and Guidelines for Management of the Eastern Grape Leafhopper”  –  It is a method of classifying vineyard blocks for risk (e.g., High, Low or Intermediate) of receiving damage from grape berry moth. The criteria used for assigning risk include: Value of the varieties being grown; Surrounding Vineyard Habitat; History of GBM injury; Climatic factors related to the region where grapes are being grown.

High Risk Classification  

Value of the varieties being grown – if higher value varieties such as Vitis vinifera, many hybrids, or table grapes are being grown then these vineyards should automatically be assigned a High Risk Classification. Therefore most vineyards in Pennsylvania, outside of the Lake Erie Region, should initially be classified as High Risk. This classification can be adjusted later if scouting history reveals that GBM injury is consistently low at your vineyard site.

Surrounding Vineyard Habitat – if wooded edges or hedgerows/weedy areas are present around vineyards.

History of GBM injury – if scouting reveals that damage is often above 6% cluster damage in July and /or above 15 % cluster damage (2% berry damage) at harvest. These injury levels were developed with processed juice grape varieties in mind and injury levels may be lower for varieties that command a higher value/ton.

Climatic factors related to the region – if a region has prolonged winter snow cover or mild winter temperatures.

Low Risk Classification

Value of the varieties being grown – if lower value varieties (e.g., juice grapes) are being grown.

Surrounding Vineyard Habitat – if no wooded edges or hedgerows/weedy areas are present around vineyards.

History of GBM injury – if vineyards seldom have problems with GBM. The history of GBM injury for each site is acquired by maintaining scouting records of vineyards over the years.

Climatic factors related to the region – if permanent snow cover is rare and site is prone to severe winter temperatures.

Intermediate Risk Classification – is a catch all classification.  If it isn’t High or Low risk then site is classified as Intermediate risk.

Life cycle and description of GBM

Knowledge about the life cycle and ability to identify the pest and injury caused is important for successful management. Moths emerge from the overwintering pupal stage in spring. Emergence in Erie County, Pa. occurs in late May but in other areas of the state this may occur 2 -3 weeks earlier. These moths are small (about 6 mm), brownish with grey-blue coloration at the base of wings (Figure 1). Unless pheromone traps are used it is unlikely that moths will be observed. Adults are active around dusk and have a distinctive zig zag pattern in flight. Mated females lay eggs singly on flower clusters or berries. Eggs are very small (< 1mm), scale-like and whitish, opaque (Figure 2). Due to their size, eggs are difficult to observe without a hand lens. Early in the season larvae hatching from eggs will web together small berries to feed. However, when berries reach about 5 – 7 mm in size, larvae will bore directly into berries to feed. Newly hatched larvae are tiny with white bodies and black head capsules. Later stages are brownish to purple in coloration (Figure 3). Upon completing development larvae exit berries and either drop to the ground to pupate in leaf litter or some will pupate in the canopy in a semicircular leaf flap. Pupae which are encased in leaf sections are light brown to greenish in coloration (5 mm). Leaves with pupae will remain underneath the trellis if there is poor weed control or will be moved by the wind and collect along wood edges, or in brushy areas. Adults will emerge from pupae to begin the next generation. There are usually 3 – 4 generations of GBM per year in Pennsylvania, depending on temperatures during the growing season.

Figure 1. Grape Berry Moth adult on Concord leaf. Photo by: Andy Muza, Penn State


Figure 2. Grape berry moth eggs on Concord cluster. Photo by: Andy Muza, Penn State


Figure 3. Grape berry moth mature larva on berry. Photo found at: Grape Berry Moth fact sheet


Regular scouting throughout the season (at least weekly) is critical in determining if and where applications should be applied for GBM.  A scouting protocol for GBM is described in “Bulletin 138, Risk Assessment of Grape Berry Moth and Guidelines for Management of the Eastern Grape Leafhopper” .

This protocol recommends selecting four different areas in your vineyard to be sampled during each scouting event. Two different areas should be checked in the interior of the vineyard and two different areas along the exterior (border) portions of the vineyard. At each of the four sampling sites, randomly select 5 vines and examine 10 clusters/vine for GBM injury. Determine separate injury levels (# injured clusters/100 clusters = % injured clusters) for the interior and exterior portions of the vineyard. It is important to keep separate injury levels for the interior and exterior areas because border areas near woodlines/hedgerows will usually have higher levels of injury. Therefore, border areas may need an insecticide application while interior areas may not.

When scouting early in the season look for webbing in the clusters (Figure 4). Until berries are large enough to enter, larvae will web together multiple berries and feed from inside webbing sites. Some varieties (e.g., Concord) may exhibit a distinct reddening of portions of the berry if injury occurs before veraison (Figure 5) while other varieties do not (Figure 6). Later in the season look for holes, splits, webbing or dark tunneling underneath berry skin (Figure 7).  If injured berries are broken open then larvae may be found.

Figure 4. Webbing in cluster from GBM larva. Photo by: Andy Muza, Penn State


Figure 5. Reddening of Concord berries caused by GBM injury. Photo by: Andy Muza, Penn State


Figure 6. GBM entry holes in Niagara berries. Photo by: Andy Muza, Penn State


Figure 7. Late season GBM injury on Concord berries. Photo by: Andy Muza, Penn State

Map vineyards and keep scouting records – Develop detailed maps of your vineyards and surrounding topography. Keep records of GBM injury levels for each scouting date and vineyard sections checked. These records will provide a GBM history per site.

Pheromone Traps – GBM flight periods can be monitored using commercially available pheromone traps (Figure 8). Traps and pheromone caps can be purchased from a number of sources such as at Great Lakes IPM, Inc.  and  Scentry Biologicals, Inc.  Monitoring traps are baited with small rubber lures impregnated with GBM female sex pheromone for attracting male moths. Pheromone traps may provide an idea of population levels at your vineyard site and can be used as a scouting tool to indicate flight periods. However, trap data are not used for timing of spray applications due to ambiguity concerning correlation of capture numbers and berry injury levels.

Figure 8. Pheromone trap for monitoring GBM flight periods. Photo by: Andy Muza, Penn State

Cultural Practices

Cultural practices are integral for any integrated pest management program. Therefore, maintain good weed control under the trellis. Poor weed management resulting in excessive vegetation under the vines can harbor grape berry moth (GBM) pupae.

Viticultural practices that promote a more open, less dense canopy resulting in better exposure of clusters to sunlight (e.g., shoot thinning, leaf removal, judicious use of nitrogen) will not only improve quality of fruit but will enable better spray coverage.

Vineyard area maintenance such as preventing overgrown, weedy areas around the vineyard will reduce overwintering sites for GBM pupae. If possible, removal of wild grapevines near the vineyard will decrease potential reservoir sites.


Spray Timing

To accurately time insecticide applications it is recommended that the Grape Berry Moth Degree-Day Model be used. The GBM DD Model is a temperature-driven developmental model developed by Tobin and Saunders at  Penn State. This model is incorporated into Cornell’s Network for Environmental and Weather Applications (NEWA).  Collaborative research at Penn State, Cornell and Michigan State Universities has shown that use of this developmental model can improve GBM management. For a comprehensive explanation concerning the development and use of this forecasting model consult   “Focus on Females Provides New Insights for Grape Berry Moth Management” , Issue 14, May 2013.

Use of the GBM DD Model:

  • CHECK the NEWA weather station closest to your vineyard. There are a number of NEWA weather stations located throughout Pennsylvania.  However, the majority of vineyards outside Erie County, PA will probably not be close enough (i.e., within a few miles) to a NEWA station for this option to be useful. But you can still use the GBM DD Model by recording daily maximum and minimum temperature data on your own. Options include either purchasing a max/min thermometer or weather station for your site. The RainWise AgroMET & IP-100 Package  is the authorized choice for participation into the NEWA network.
  • MONITOR and RECORD the date of wild grape bloom (i.e., when approximately 50% of flowers open) for each vineyard site. Research has shown that egg laying by females that emerge in the spring (first generation) is closely associated with bloom of wild grapevines. Therefore, the majority of eggs from this generation are laid on wild grape clusters and not in cultivated vineyards. NOTE: If using a NEWA site then enter the date of wild grape bloom into the model. If you do not record a wild grape bloom date for your site then the model does provide an estimated date for the weather station that is used.
  • TRACK GBM degree days using a NEWA station closest to your vineyard site OR keep a running total throughout the season of GBM degree days [(Daily MAX + MIN Temperatures)/2) – 47.14 F] starting on the recorded date of wild grape bloom.
  • SCOUT to determine injury levels.
  • SPRAY (if needed) as close to the designated degree day timings as possible.

The model recommends an insecticide treatment in high and possibly intermediate risk sites when: 810 GBM degree days are accumulated for the second generation; 1620 GBM degree days for the third generation; and 2430 GBM degree days (if harvest has not yet occurred) in years that a fourth generation occurs. Insecticides such as Intrepid, Altacor, and Delegate are suggested for these timings.

If using broad spectrum contact insecticides (e.g., pyrethroids) then applications should be delayed about 100 GBM degree days for each generation (i.e., 910, 1720, 2530 GBM degree days).

Insecticide Choices/Application Practices

There are numerous insecticides effective for GBM which are registered for use in Pennsylvania. Consult the 2017 New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes (

Rotate insecticides with different modes of action into your GBM spray program to prevent/delay insecticide resistance. Read the label to determine if a spray adjuvant and/or pH adjustment to spray water is required. Also, incorporate more selective insecticides (e.g., Intrepid, Altacor, Delegate) into your spray program which will aid in conserving natural enemies.

Good spray coverage on clusters is critical. Therefore, spray every row and use appropriate gallonage, speed, pressure, and nozzles for good cluster coverage as the size of the canopy increases throughout the season.


Evaluate efficacy of applications

Don’t assume that because an insecticide was applied that GBM was controlled. After an insecticide application check areas that were sprayed to determine the effectiveness of the application. High Risk sites in Erie County, PA have benefited from back to back applications (about 10 days apart) per generation due to extremely high population levels at these sites.

Continue to Scout                                                                                                                                                                        

Monitoring your vineyard(s) not only for GBM but also for other insects, diseases and weeds should continue through harvest.

Keep Accurate Records

Accurate records should be kept each season for: scouting (e.g., dates, pests observed, vineyard location where observed, injury levels); pesticide applications (e.g., pesticides used, rates/acre, gallons/acre applied, etc.) and weather data.

Re – examine management practices

At the end of the season, especially if GBM was not adequately controlled, re – examine management practices by reviewing your records. A few factors to consider that contribute to poor control include: Inadequate Spray Coverage; Inaccurate Spray Timing; Too Few Applications; and Choice of Insecticides.

Change/Fine Tune management practices

The results of re-examining your practices may reveal flaws in your management strategy. If flaws are identified then be prepared to make the necessary changes in the future. Fine tuning your pest management strategy is an ongoing process which should evolve as long as you continue to farm.