It’s all about value for the buck in this tough economy. Growers are looking for ways to conserve water, fertilizers and pesticides as the 2009 season moves into high gear.

“We’re definitely seeing more growers who are going to more of a prescription based nutritional program in vines, says Dave Cheetham, Research and Development manager for Helena Chemical Co.’s Western Business Unit. “The good news is that fertilizer and other input costs are looking better right now.”

Water is still an issue, but not quite as glum as it was earlier this winter. “It’s gotten better in the last few weeks,” Cheetham says. “We’re about 75 percent of normal in Amador County for example.”

Cheetham helps manage Cooper Vineyards with his wife and family in Plymouth, Calif.

“Those set up with drip in our area are in a better situation than those who are still using sprinklers,” he says. “If everybody is conservative, I believe we’ll be able to make it through.”

More than ever, growers are looking at ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies. Nutrition is a prime concern.

“We’re seeing a lot more soil and petiole testing for nutrients,” Cheetham says. “Instead of automatically putting 100-150 units of N down, growers are testing and adjusting their nutrient program based on those results.”

That doesn’t just apply to nitrogen considerations. Micronutrients are also factored into the equation and growers are re-thinking formulations, according to Cheetham.

“Growers are finding some of the liquid formulations more attractive because often they are more cost effective and efficacious. Rather than a dry formulation that you have to put into solution, a liquid formulation is already formulated and easy to apply. That said, there are also new dry formulation technologies that will be available soon that will give growers even more easy to use options.”