Producing top-grade grapes is not an easy task. Those with the best tools and information are the ones that consistently grow the best crops. The right science-based program and nutritional tools help table grape growers achieve tasty, high-color, firm textured fruit that minimizes shrink in the store and the home.
For wine grape growers, the right science-based program and nutritional tools mean the right brix, high color and uniform maturity at harvest that winemakers crave. They both require using the Five Rs for consistent success and best economic performance.
Regardless of the end product, science-driven nutrition offers grape growers a means of achieving their goals. By taking an analytical approach, Agro-K encourages growers to measure the most important key metrics. Then, using science-driven Five-R tools, growers can consequently manage their crop more effectively and profitably.
Here are some things growers should consider to maximize crop performance and profitability year after year.
Know Your Crop
While table grapes need to have high-color fruit with visually appealing stems, a firm fruit texture, good shelf-life and high brix for a fantastic eating experience, wine grapes need to have the right brix for good fermentation, the right color and uniform maturity at harvest. Color intensity in the wine is based on good anthocyanins in the cell walls that contain the red pigments. Growers can impact the anthocyanins using Agro-K programs to improve the intensity of red wine grapes. This means that the science-driven nutrition program for each crop will be different. With the key quality parameters in mind, Agro-K delivers a program that maximizes the results grape producers need to be more consistently profitable.
The right science-driven nutritional program doesn’t just happen. It starts by diving into the crop details. For grapes, this means soil, leaf tissue, sap analysis and (importantly) pre-harvest fruit analysis testing. Growers will also want to test the brix using a refractometer to ensure proper sugar levels.
When combined, these tests give growers a seasonal report card of how the crop performed, as well as a road map for how to make improvements in the future.
Do the Job Right
Growers achieve the best results when they follow the Five R’s: The Right nutrient applied at the Right time in the Right form in the Right mix targeting the Right place in the plant. One of the most common mishaps occurs when growers apply nutrients outside of the plant’s peak demand. The more accurate the timing, the more beneficial the nutrient.
While table and wine grapes require similar testing, the nutritional needs as a result of those tests vary. For table grapes, eating experience is critically important. This is driven by brix or sugar levels, which is driven by chlorophyll and by foliar potassium in the summer. The nutrients most important for chlorophyll production are magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. These nutrients must be applied when the leaves are developing chlorophyll. This is known as peak demand for chlorophyll, and it is the right time. Calcium is also a key factor in determining fruit firmness. It must be applied foliarly during cell division of the fruit and supported through additional foliar applications afterward. This helps to maintain adequate calcium levels that will lead to better firmness and shelf-life.
Wine grapes require a different course of action. These grapes also require good chlorophyll development in the leaves, but the emphasis is also on sugar, color and uniform maturity. This means avoiding too much nitrogen (especially too late), which can negatively impact color, brix and uniform maturity. Too much nitrogen can also encourage foliar diseases, such as powdery mildew, botrytis and, occasionally, downy mildew. Good nutrition can reduce the severity and the pressure of many of these diseases. The right science-driven nutritional program can also have a big impact on the critical balance of quality and tonage.