On Wednesday, April 8th, Billy Worthey and I made a trek to Lourdsburg, New Mexico. There is a sizable grape grower out there. He has about 200 acres of grapes for wine. A multi-generational Frenchman, Emanuel loves his grapes. In the arid soils of the Southwest, he has found many problems over the years and is always looking for ways to deal with them.
Soils in this region tend to be very high in minerals and low in organic matter. therefore, they tend to compact easily. Where Emanuel's farm is he has pretty sandy soil that doesn't hold moisture for very long...remember there is very low organic matter... In the past couple years, he's been growing here for 10 years, his yields have dropped from 10 tons per acre to 4. The biggest contributor to this problem is root knot nematodes, aka, Texas Root Rot. The nematodes like to eat organic material in the soil. When there is such a low amount of food, the plants themselves become the food. The nematodes eat down the root hairs, preventing the plants from being able to get their needed nutrients. Signs of this can be seen on the trunks of the vines as the bark begins to crack and peel away, making the plant susceptible to other pests.
Some methods Emanuel has tried include a range of synthetic chemicals, applied topically and systemically through foliar feeding, and subsurface irrigation. He really feels like he is not seeing any improvements and is looking for anything that can help save his farm. His crop consultant has suggested the use of beneficial microbes to help build the soil, increase the water retention and organic matter, and hopefully to out-compete the root knot nematodes. Without getting into too much technical detail, the logic behind this is to focus in building soil. Since about 90% of diseases and pests come from the soil, this is a logical place to start and to focus the most amount of energy.
We are really looking forward to getting EM1 in as part of this project and hope to supply some better pictures as the season goes on.