I began my internship at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center on May 31 after moving into my lovely summer home in Mattituck, NY the weekend prior. The past month has been part of a rapid growing cycle for grapevines in Long Island so I have been a busy bee!
My internship in Long Island is multifaceted. I am currently working with the head Viticulturist, Alice Wise and Viticulture technician, Libby Tarleton, on a multitude of projects. One of my primary responsibilities is routine maintenance of the “varietal trials” at the research vineyard. We have 36 wine grape varieties planted on 2 acres that must be tended to throughout the growing season. To give you all perspective as to how much has changed since I first arrived- at early June the shoots were a mere 18 inches long, now the vines have a fully developed canopy reaching over 6 feet and received their first hedging last week.
Over the past month my duties have been very hands on; I have spent the majority of my time assisting with important vineyard management practices that promote optimal vine maturation and berry ripening. Some of the techniques include: tucking and positioning shoots, leaf pulling, weeding, hedging, and cluster thinning. Alice and Libby have been with me every step of the way, carefully explaining why practices are performed and the importance of timing. The goal of the varietal trial is to evaluate vineyard performance amongst the different cultivars, so a part of my responsibility is making careful observation of any changes in development that occur. It has been extremely interesting to see the vines diverge into different colors, shapes, and sizes throughout the season, thereby strengthening my ampelography (the study of identifying grapevines) skills.
Other projects that I help with include evaluating the impact of different pest management methods used on a block of Chardonnay in the vineyard. Our trial includes: a conventional system that undergoes a “standard” spray schedule, a low impact system that receives reduced risk and organic spray products, and an organic system. Work on this trial has introduced me to different management strategies that are used by growers in the area and the implications of these strategies on grapevine pathology and development.
We also have an under trellis mowing trial on a block of Merlot that evaluates the differences in growth and development of vines that have bare ground under the trellis versus natural vegetation that is mowed. The goal of this trial is to come to a conclusion regarding the differences between the treatments, with the hope of promoting under-trellis mowing rather than herbicide use. The advantage of spraying an herbicide is to reduce any competition the weeds may have with vines, but the advantage of mowing in the words of Ms. Wise are to “massage ones guilt about all of the other chemicals we have to spray in the vineyard.” Nearly the entire research vineyard is now mowed (with the exception of young vines). With that said, I am happy to be working in health and environment-conscious environment 🙂