CAWG Monterey Meeting Addresses Mechanization and Virus Control Strategies
By Laurie Greene, Editor
John Aguirre, president of the Sacramento-based California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), highlighted two important topics discussed at their annual summer meeting last week in Monterey: the drive to mechanize as many cultural practices as possible to avoid high labor costs and to encourage innovation in fighting viruses.
“For a variety of reasons,” said Aguirre, “we really have to focus on mechanizing most winegrape vineyard activities such leafing, harvesting and pruning. We have a policy environment that is making labor more expensive, more difficult to use labor in the vineyard.”
Furthermore, Aguirre explained, fewer people want to work in the vineyard, so mechanization is going to be one of the few options available to those who want to stay in business. Aguirre has seen many winegrape growers shift away from winegrapes towards almonds, in part, because of the lower labor requirement. “Again, if we want a diverse agriculture industry in this state, we’ve got to find ways to help all ag sectors be more mechanized,” he noted.
Aguirre emphasized the critical importance of learning about viruses in the vineyard and addressing strategies to minimize virus infections—the focus of a panel of experts at the meeting. Some key takeaways Aguirre noted were, “a better understanding of what we can do in the vineyard to rogue out infected vines and how to manage vectors.”
Aguirre also recalled a real practical hands-on session that focused on preventing the spread of viruses by vectors, such as birds, people, and machinery, through increased cooperation between growers. He also noted there are good systems in place to maintain clean nursery stock. “The Foundation Plant Services and our nurseries are taking really strong steps to improve the cleanliness of grapevine nursery stock. I see things only getting better.”
Pierce’s Disease Website to Help Inform Winegrape Grower/Vintner Community
Winegrape growers and vintners anxious to better understand why their “yes” votes are needed for the upcoming Pierce’s Disease / glassy-winged sharpshooter (PD/GWSS) Referendum can now turn to a new comprehensive website: www.YESonPDref.org.
Up-to-date information on a variety of aspects concerning the PD Referendum can be found on the site, including voting procedures, facts about PD and GWSS, statistics on expenditures, the latest news and links to other sites with information on the PD/GWSS threat.
With passage of the last referendum in 2010, the PD/GWSS Board was given the authority to designate other pests and diseases detrimental to winegrapes for research funding. Since then the Board has designated the European grapevine moth (EGVM), red blotch (GRBaV), vine mealybug (VMB) and (BMSB) as serious threats to winegrapes.
“Through the industry supported Pierce’s Disease Control Program, we helped stop the spread of PD and soon commercial nurseries will have access to a variety of PD-resistant winegrapes–none of which would be possible without the PD assessment,” said CAWG President John Aguirre. “The program is operating at the lowest assessment rate since its inception; yet it continues to deliver tremendous value.”
Ballots for the vote on the PD Referendum will be sent out the week of March 30th. It’s important that every winegrape grower return his/her ballots no later than April 18th.
At least 40 percent of eligible growers must cast ballots to validate the referendum. Passage requires either: a “yes” vote by 65 percent of those voting who represent the majority of the assessment that was paid in 2014; or a “yes” vote by a majority of those voting who represent 65 percent or more of the assessment that was paid in 2014.