A Washington State University soil scientist and a Cornell University weed scientist kicked off the 49th annual Washington State Grape Society’s annual meeting on Nov. 18.

“Our very first and hopefully last virtual one,” said Catherine Jones, president of the organization.

Deirdre Griffin LaHue, an assistant professor at WSU’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon, told growers that soil health measurements typically apply to grain production in the Midwest and Eastern parts of the United States and favor yield maximization, which is not always the goal with grapes. In a Zoom digital poll, meeting attendees told her they considered pest and pathogen suppression as the top soil priority and microbial activity as the second most important, while brix topped tonnage as the No. 1 production concern related to soil conditions.

Griffin LaHue has embarked on a three-year study to measure soil characteristics in dozens of specialty crop sites, including vineyards and orchards, across Washington to come up with new ways to measure soil health as it relates to specific crops and different grower goals. The project, which she started this year, is funded by a Washington State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.

Lynn Sosnoskie, assistant horticulture professor at Cornell, discussed the myriad ways to manage weeds organically, touching on everything from cultivation to flaming and organic herbicides to the Aqua Knife, which uses high-pressured water. Her first lesson though: Know what weeds you have before you start management. She discussed a few phone apps, Pl@ntNet and iNaturalist, that allow users to upload photos to identify weeds.

Also on Nov. 18, the Grape Society announced its annual scholarship winners: Alexa McDaniel, doctoral student at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, and Callie Jo Judkins, a Prosser High School graduate attending Washington State University.

 The annual meeting will continue 2–4 p.m. Nov. 19, with talks on pest management, smoke impacts and the economic outlook for grape markets. Registration and details are online at https://www.grapesociety.org/annual-meeting.html