New growth of the Fiesta, Selma Pete and Thompson seedless vines in Fresno County, Calif., has extended 12 to 24 inches. This follows a week-early bud break in February.

“The shoots have pushed out pretty uniformly,” says Steve Spate, Raisin Bargaining Association grower representative. “They’re still in a real growth spurt and shooting up. “The weather this spring has been good for growth.”

Unfortunately, it has also been a dry year and many growers who normally start irrigating in May began watering their vines in late March or early April. Not surprising, irrigation districts have announced reductions in delivers of surface water. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation allocations for Friant Division Class I water users were decreased from 55 percent to 50 percent in mid-April with Class 2 water remaining at zero percent due to dry conditions in the state. The Friant Division’s 152-mile Friant-Kern Canal serves 22 member districts in Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.

Pumping groundwater to make up the difference will add to growers’ production costs this year.

Bunches have started forming. With continued favorable weather, bloom should begin about May 1. That would be about seven to 10 days earlier than last year.

 

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High winds in mid-March snapped off some of these new shoots and will rob growers of some bunches, Spate notes. However, it’s still too early to speculate about the size of this year’s crop.

“We have a good head start, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he says. Usually, the grapes are ready for harvest by the last week of August or the first few days of September. At times, though, some growers may not begin putting grapes on drying trays until Sept. 20, the deadline for insuring the crop against rain damage.

With the dry conditions, powdery mildew hasn’t posed much of a threat to this year’s crop, yet. However, that hasn’t stopped growers from taking preventive action by treating their vineyards with liquid or dry sulfur and fungicides.

“You don’t want to try to fix a powdery mildew problem,” Spate says. “It’s much more effective and faster to stay ahead of any problems before they get out hand.”

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