By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Photo by Morgan Dawson Photography
Downy mildew is like the slasher movie killer in the vineyard: You almost never see it, but when it does make an appearance there is a trail of destruction in its wake.
And all summer long, we heard how this was a disease pressure year like few others -- a slasher movie, to be sure, in the unsuspecting vineyards.
Check out this photograph of grapes ravaged by downy mildew. It was taken in a Finger Lakes vineyard that serves only as an experimental block and thus is not designed to make wine. But the grapes we visited were a mix of vinifera, hybrids and natives.
In the case of this particular block, there was no spraying throughout the growing season. The cool and near-constant early season rains brought a lot of problems and without a spraying regimen, these vines were at the mercy of the mildew.
Pretty sad, huh?
The good news is that growing practices are improving, and even in this pressurized season, many growers have risen to the challenge. That does, of course, require spraying for most of them.
On Long Island and in other regions, an organic movement is growing that eschews traditional spraying in favor of other means of fighting disease. That's a post for another day. I certainly don't intend with this post to endorse one form of growing practice over another; I only intend to illustrate exactly what the effects of downy mildew look like.
For industry professionals, it's nothing new. For those of us who don't tend the vines every day, it's might be something new indeed. And by the way, the solution to warding off disease is not as simple as, "Spray!" It's obviously more complicated and nuanced than that. No doubt growers can spray too often or too rarely. We'd love for growers to jump in to the comments here and share their ideas for handling this season.
Please forgive my hat hair in this video. There's no evidence that my hair was hit by downy mildew. As far as you know.