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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Viticulture Notes

Vineyard and Winery Information Series:
Vol. 16 No. 4, July-August 2001

Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist

Table of Contents

I. Observations

II.Local and state programs available to Virginia farmers

III.Coming Meetings

I. Observations

August has not looked this green since 1996. Rainfall over the last 14 days has exceeded five inches in some areas of Virginia. With the rains come concerns about splitting berries and bunch rots. I've visited vineyards from Lunenburg to Loudoun County in the past week and, surprisingly, crops look very clean. Cabernet Sauvignon is at or just past veraison in the Valley, more advanced to the east. Pinot gris and some Chardonnay is approaching 20° Brix in the Piedmont. Birds (turkeys in a couple of vineyards) have begun to take note of the increased sugar, especially in vineyards surrounded by trees. We'll keep our fingers crossed on the extended rain forecast. On the bright side, even the wettest year (we're about average so far this year) has the virtue of helping us sort out varieties/clones that do better than others with respect to fruit rots.

Amy Bailey, statistician with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's Ag Statistic Service, reports that Virginia's forecast 2001 grape crop is 4600 tons. The figure was based on a partial survey of Virginia producers this summer, and will be adjusted following a comprehensive survey in the fall. The 2000 tonnage was about 4200 tons. The 2001 forecast places Virginia 10th, nationally, in tons of grapes (all uses).

Attendees at the vineyard field meeting at Gray Ghost Vineyards on 8 August saw a nice demonstration of the value of compost mulch on Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Owners Al and Cheryl Kellert had mulched some rows of the vineyard in the summer of 2000 because vine growth was weak. Mulched rows are now showing superior growth and deeper green foliage, compared to vines of unmulched rows. Al hopes to take yield data from the two treatments and is exploring options for larger scale mulching of a similarly weak Cabernet franc block.

It's with sad farewell that I bid adieu to several staff. Alison Hectus, who has served as Viticulture Extension Assistant for the past two years is leaving for Virginia Tech's main campus to pursue a Masters degree in Public Administration. Like her predecessors Eric Capps and Imed Dami, Alison mainly provided assistance with beginning and relatively new growers. Alison's phone and email logs are probably longer and more varied than my own, as she handled an ever-increasing variety of questions posed by growers. We do not have immediate plans to refill the Extension Assistant position, but there are encouraging signs on the horizon for long-term support of this position - more on that in a future newsletter. Aside from Alison, graduate student Danielle LoGiudice and summer intern Chris Low both head back to campus this month. Part-time assistant Brian Newman, who walked in last August looking for a job, has recently taken a full-time teaching position with Frederick County Schools. With the departure of 4 of the 6 viti people here, please excuse what will be even more obvious tardiness on responding to individual requests. With eight separate field experiments to sample and harvest, we will be very active.

Question from the field: I received a specimen label for Armicarb 100" fungicide recently and wondered if you know how it works on grapes? [a related question concerned Serenade" biofungicide]. I don't have personal experience with either of these products, but Dr. Wayne Wilcox, of Cornell University, recently wrote a short article describing some of the alternative fungicides that can be used for powdery mildew control. The powdery mildew-active ingredient of Armicarb 100 is potassium bicarbonate; similar to sodium bicarbonate, but less phytotoxic. Dr. Wilcox reports that Armicarb 100 has performed similarly to Nutrol" (monopotassium phosphate) in terms of powdery mildew control. Quoting Dr. Wilcox, "Nutrol [has] provided moderately good results.. it provides little protective activity; that is, no significant control if it's applied before plants are inoculated with powdery mildew spores. In contrast, it provided significant control when applied within 3-5 days after exposure to spores, i.e., when applied directly to the developing PM colonies." Dr. Wilcox goes on to suggest that "this is probably akin to what happens when one pours salt on a slug: it sucks the water (and life) right of the treated organism." Only a deranged sadist would think to do such a thing, so after reading this I went right outside and poured some salt on the largest slug I could find. It worked. So, Dr. Wilcox's preliminary experience suggests that Armicarb 100 would have some post-infection activity, but would offer little protective action. Armicarb 100 might come in handy in the event of a powdery mildew outbreak. We have, in the past, suggested that horticultural oil could be used to eradicate such outbreaks, but former student Sarah Finger's research clearly showed that there was a penalty in terms of phytotoxicity - and delayed fruit maturation -- associated with oil sprays. We hope to gain some first-hand experience with Armicarb 100 this season, not that we're anxious to see mildew outbreaks. As an endnote, the Armicarb 100 label indicates a 4-hr restricted re-entry period, but I was unable to find a preharvst spray interval (PHI).

The related question concerned Serenade fungicide. Again, I quote Dr. Wilcox: "The active ingredient (of Serenade) is an antibiotic from the soil...We haven't tested the product against powdery mildew previously, but are doing so this season. It is also registered for control of Botrytis; in our trial last year, it provided zero control of this disease." In discussions with the Virginia sales representative for Serenade, the recommendation emerged that Serenade be used in concert with other fungicides for powdery mildew control, as in tank mixes.

The fast-track registration of some of the newer "biorational" pesticides means that some products are getting to market before extension or other university personnel have had the opportunity to evaluate the products side-by-side with conventional materials over multiple growing seasons. In lieu of such third-party evaluation, growers who choose to use the products will have to follow label prescriptions and the manufacturer's advice on product efficacy.

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II. Local and State Programs Available to Virginia Farmers.

This article appeared in the June-July issue of VA Cooperative Extension's "Farm Business Management Update" By Jack Dunford

Local, state, and federal governments provide a number of programs, tax credits, tax exemptions, and other business-related benefits to the farming community. These programs are in addition to the state and federal programs such as disaster payments, cost-share programs, feed-grain programs, etc. available through agencies such as FSA, NRCS, DEQ, and the local Soil and Water Conservation districts. The intent of this summary is to compile and briefly describe those benefits in one concise list.

Local Government:

  1. Land-Use Taxation- A program in existence since the 1970's which values farmland based on its income producing potential rather than market value. It can result in significant real estate tax savings for farmers. Land-use taxation is available in many Virginia counties and is administered through the local Commissioner of the Revenue office where landowners must apply and re-certify annually. Generally, full-time farmers qualify, but minimum farming activities must be approved for part-time farmers or rural landowners to qualify. Rules vary by county, so contact your Commissioner of the Revenue for details.

  2. Exemption from Personal Property Tax on Farm Equipment- Many local governments exempt farm equipment from local personal property taxes. Since this varies from county to county, contact your Commissioner of Revenue for your locality.

  3. Agricultural Districts- Counties have the flexibility under Virginia law to establish agricultural districts within their jurisdictions. These are formed voluntarily by single landowners or groups of landowners. The intent of a district is to protect the area from residential development and to maintain open space and agriculture. Once a district is formed, it must be renewed periodically. Contact your local planning/zoning office for the rules governing agricultural districts in you county. Similar legislation for forest districts exists in some jurisdictions.

  4. Conservation Easements/Purchase of Development Rights- A fairly new alternative available in some counties that permits landowners to protect lands from development. Check with your local planning/zoning office to see if such programs might be available.

State Government:

  1. State Income Tax Credits- At least five Virginia income tax credits are currently in the state code that apply to farmers/landowners. They are computed on the Schedule CR and filed with the Virginia income tax return. These credits are not applicable to federal income taxes. See the Virginia Schedule CR Instructions for more details on these credits and to determine what supplemental information must be provided with the tax return for each credit. The total tax credits cannot exceed the Virginia income tax due in a particular year; however, the unused credits may be carried forward for five years.

    1. Conservation Tillage Equipment Credit- A taxpayer investing in conservation tillage equipment (i.e., no-till planters or drills) for the purposed of farming may claim this tax credit. The credit is 25% of the cost of the equipment or $2,500, whichever is less.
    2. Fertilizer and Pesticide Application Equipment Credit- Twenty-five percent of all expenditures for equipment certified as providing more precise pesticide and/or fertilizer application or $3,750, whichever is less. Applicants must be engaged in agricultural production for market and have in place a nutrient management plan approved by the local Soil and Water Conservation district.
    3. Agricultural Best Management Practices Tax Credit- The agricultural producer must have in place a soil conservation plan approved by the local Soil and Water Conservation District. The credit is 25% of the first $70,000 that is spent for approved agricultural best management programs (BMP). The maximum credit available is 25% of the cost of the BMP up to $17,500, or the total amount of state income tax due, whichever is less.
    4. Riparian Waterway Buffer Credit- Contact the Virginia Department of Forestry for details. This credit is for landowners who refrain from cutting timber on lands adjacent to waterways. The credit is 25% of the value of the timber (established by the Virginia State Forester) up to $17,500, or the total amount of the income tax due, whichever is less.
    5. Preservation of Land Tax Credit- A Virginia tax credit is offered for taxpayers donating land for preservation purposes. The credit is 50% of the fair market value of the land transferred, not to exceed $50,000 in 2000, $75,000 in 2001, and $100,000 in 2002.

  2. Virginia Sales and Use Tax Exemption- Farmers are generally exempt from paying this tax on items considered tangible personal property used in the production of agricultural products for market. Examples of qualifying items include feed, seed, fertilizer, chemicals, most farm machinery, etc. A Form ST-18 must be filed with each dealer from which the farmer purchases farm supplies/equipment. Not all agricultural inputs qualify for this exemption- contact the State Sales Tax Office for detailed information.

  3. State Fuels Tax Refund- State taxes that a farmer pays on fuels used exclusively for agricultural production are refundable. Form FAA 216 is available from DMV. This refund is filed with the Refund Section of DMV in Richmond.

  4. Farm Vehicle Tags- Vehicles used exclusively for agricultural purposes on lands owned or leased by the owner are exempt from registration and license plate requirements. These vehicles can be operated along a highway for no more than 30 miles from home for certain agriculturally related purposes as outlined in the Virginia Code (46.2-698).

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III. Coming meetings:

  1. Beginners Grape Growing Seminar

    When: Friday, 5 October 2001; 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
    Where: AHS, Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Virginia Tech, Winchester, VA.

    Information: Tony Wolf, 540-869-2560 Extn. 20

    Registration: Pre-registration required and registration is limited to first 50 persons: $50 per person, to include morning coffee/danishes, soft-drinks, catered lunch, handouts, and to cover our invited speaker expenses. Check made payable to "Virginia Vineyards Association", and mailed to "Grapes", Virginia Tech, 595 Laurel Grove Rd. Winchester, VA 22602. Check must be received by 28 September 2001 to guarantee lunch. Use the enclosed pre-registration form.

    Program: "Beginner's" grape growing seminars target individuals who are exploring winegrape growing opportunities in Virginia, or those who desire a "refresher" course. Topics covered include economics, site selection, varieties, and vineyard establishment, including materials and methods. Various aspects of established vineyard management (canopy management, pest management, pruning and training, cold injury avoidance, etc.) are discussed at an introductory level. Classroom principles are reinforced with a review of the AHS AREC research vineyard. We are pleased this year to include two distinguished guest speakers on the "Beginner's Shortcourse" program. Dr. Joseph Fiola, Associate Professor with the University of Maryland, and Mr. Mark Chien, viticulture extension specialist with Penn State University will be assisting me with a team effort. Our plans are to repeat this program at some point in the future in both Maryland and Pennsylvania.

    Directions: Virginia Tech's AHS Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center (AREC) is located approximately 7 miles southwest of Winchester, VA in Frederick County. From Interstate-81, take the Stephens City exit on the south side of Winchester. Go west into Stephens City (200 yards off of I-81) and proceed straight through traffic light onto Rt 631. Continue west on Rt 631 approximately 3.5 miles. Turn right (north) onto Rt 628 at "T". Go 1.5 miles north on Rt 628 and turn left (west) onto Rt 629. Go 0.8 miles to AREC on left.

  2. Vineyard Field Meeting

    Organized by the Rappahannock and Madison County Extension units, the following meeting is the last of the 2001 series. Meetings are open to all, and there is no registration required. Meetings last from 11:00 am until about 2:00 pm. Bring a lunch.

    12 September, 11:00 am: Rappahannock Cellars, John Delmare

    Directions: Rappahannock Cellars is located at the corner of Rt. 522 and Hume Rd., 6 miles south of Front Royal.

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the AHS Agricultural Research and Extension Center, at 540-869-2560 during business hours of 7:30 am to 4:00 pm weekdays, to discuss your needs at least 7 days prior to the event.

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"Viticulture Notes" is a bi-monthly newsletter issued by Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist with Virginia Tech's Alson H. Smith, Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Winchester, Virginia. If you would like to receive "Viticulture Notes" as well as Dr. Bruce Zoecklein's "Vinter's Corner" by mail, contact Dr. Wolf at:

Dr. Tony K. Wolf
AHS Agricultural Research and Extension Center
595 Laurel Grove Road
Winchester, VA 22602

or e-mail:

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