Grape growers worry about herbicide drift
This 50-acre Creekbend Vineyard planting is surrounded on three sides by field crops. It’s registered on the Pesticide Sensitive Crops and Habitats Registry at www.driftwatch.org.
Bernie Parker, the vineyard manager at Creekbend Vineyard and Oliver Winery, got an e-mail from Bruce Bordelon, the viticulture and small fruit specialist at Purdue University, telling him about DriftWatch.
“We’ve never had any problems with pesticide drift,” Parker said. “But ten years ago, 2,4-D drift wiped out the whole crop of one of our neighbors. So I got our vineyard on the map as a sensitive site.”
Creekbed Vineyard is a 50-acre vineyard planted in 1994 and surrounded on three sides by field crops. “They aren’t huge farms, and they use ground application, so they see our grapes,” Parker said. “We’ve had good relations and no problems.”
Grapes are sensitive to 2,4-D, a herbicide used to kill broadleaf weeds. It could be more widely used in the future if crops are developed that will tolerate it, and such crops are in development. “At flowering time, 2,4-D will burn up the flowers on the grapes,” Parker said. “At other times, it will shock the plants and stunt growth. Glyphosate can shock grapes, too, and deform the growing tips.”
Parker’s interest goes well beyond the vineyard he manages. That 50 acres, owned by Oliver Winery, provides about 2 percent of the grapes it crushes. Oliver Winery buys the remaining grapes for its 270,000-case annual production. The winery was started in 1960 by the Oliver family, which still manages it. The employees share the ownership. It is one of the largest wineries in the eastern United States.
“There are only about 500 acres of wine grapes in Indiana,” Parker said, “but it’s a growing industry.” Indiana growers have had good success with Traminette, a cool-climate white wine grape resulting from a Cornell University cross with Gewurztraminer as one parent. Oliver Winery buys grapes from many sources and lists 42 wines on its wine list.