Tackle grape disease with new mechanical leaf removal method

A new class of leaf removers brings Michigan grape growers new options for managing fruit quality and improving vineyard efficiencies.

Grapes growing on a vine.
Grapes growing on a vine. Photo credit: Maddie Curley

Given Michigan’s cooler climate, diseases like powdery mildew, botrytis and sour rot infection are all concerns for grape growers come harvest time. Increasingly, growers are turning to canopy and cluster zone leaf removal methods to expose clusters to more direct sunlight and increased temperatures, resulting in higher quality fruit.

However, many of the manual leaf removal methods are costly and may result in fruit damage when performed with old mechanical equipment. Plus, old methods of removal are typically less precise in dense canopy areas during periods of excessive growth.

Growers who attend Michigan State University’s Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies on June 28 at MSU’s Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, will have the opportunity to view a demonstration of a new class of leaf removers that use compressed air to remove leaves versus sucking the leaves into the path of a cutting tool.

During the afternoon grape-focused session, Canopy and Cluster Zone Management, MSU horticulture researcher Dr. Paolo Sabbatini and local vintner, Jeff Lemon of Lemon Creek Winery, will be discussing how this new mechanical leaf removal method is important for vineyard management.

“We have a lot of data to share on how fruit quality is affected by this leaf removal method,” Sabbatini said. “I think growers will be impressed at how quickly and efficiently this machine can get the job done. We were surprised to discover the advantages of mechanical leaf removal when compared to a manual approach in terms of multiple chemical fruit compounds important for wine quality, were all improved by the mechanical strategy.”

In addition to the the mechanical leaf removal session, grape growers can also attend sessions covering other vineyard management strategies including high tunnels, vineyard of the future and vineyard mechanization.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. June 28 at the MSU Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, offers a variety of fruit, vegetable and grape growing technologies, including the latest information on pollinators and equipment. The event has been approved for Restricted Use Pesticide Credits (6 credits) and Certified Crop Advisor CEUs in Integrated Pest Management, Crop Management, Soil and Water Management and Sustainability. For detailed session descriptions, visit http://www.canr.msu.edu/msu_agriculture_innovation_day/ or contact Ron Bates at batesr@msu.edu.

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