Early-season raisin grape bunch indicate an average crop for 2008, according to Glen Goto, CEO of the Raisin Bargaining Association (RBA) in Fresno, Calif. “Counts are up about 15 percent compared to last year,” he says.

The count averages 43 bunches per vine, according to Steve Spate, RBA grower representative. “We don’t have any idea how those bunches are going to stretch or size out, but it looks like we are within the average crop range of average right now.”

Powdery mildew is not a concern for now. “We haven’t had temperatures to create much of a problem yet,” Spate says. “It’s very early. However, it’s something growers can’t afford to get lax about. Temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees are optimal for powdery mildew. We are getting within that range now.”

Vine growth is progressing normally and quite rapidly, according to Spate. “The cold snap over the weekend might stall that a bit, but overall, things look good,” he says. “It’s always a concern if growers get complacent with their cultural practices at this early point in the season. If the wind blows and suddenly stops, the dew point can drop, and you can get down into a risky level even when the temperatures are forecast at a low of only 36 degrees.”

Freshly worked soil is not as efficient at frost protection as firm, packed soil, according to Spate. “Growers might get anxious to work the ground due to weeds that are emerging, but you have to be careful,” Spate says. “History has shown us that we can get significant frosts well into May. You can lose a degree or two by having fresh worked soil and not having it irrigated again.”