The season started with a warm and dry winter – something we have come to know too well in the past few years. We had very good rains in June, but after that it hardly rained at all. The first real rains came again in December – just in time to save the crop! Just check the data – scary!
While the late summer rains were critical for the success of the harvest, there were also challenges that growers had to contend with.
One significant challenge was the high disease pressure with powdery mildew. Two significant high humidity spells during mid-December and the end of January/start of February proved a challenge for those not in tune with the weather and those that might have taken chances with their crop protection programs due to the dry and moderate climate. The humidity created ideal conditions for the growth of powdery mildew, which can be devastating to vineyards if not adequately controlled.
Despite this challenge, growers who were proactive and had effective crop protection programs in place were able to manage the disease pressure and minimize its impact on the harvest. The use of appropriate fungicides, canopy management techniques, and other preventative measures were critical in ensuring the health and quality of the vines.
No heatwaves ensured the vines recovered every night and ripening was at the “normal” rate of approximately 1°B per week.
Overall, the season in the Swartland I would consider to have been quite excellent. Yes there were both challenges and opportunities, and growers who were diligent and proactive in their approach were able to produce high-quality fruit.
We will build on this positive base for the coming season. Cover cropping time is now!