Protecting Grapes From Birds With Netting


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As fruit ripens, a walk in the vineyard with winegrower Michael Larner led to an interesting discovery and we learned how vineyards use netting to protect their precious crop from birds. To explore this further, we visited Riverbench Vineyard to see the crew applying the netting to their vines.

MICHAEL
So we’ve got to come here and net all this. That’s why we’re doing the preliminary fruit drop now, net it and then we’ll come back and do another fruit drop if we have to.

I love birds and birds are great, but in a couple of days we’re going to put a net over these guys and keep them out. They’ll actually go there and peck at it and then get to the seed, but leave the rest of the berry there, so it starts rotting—

WIL FERNANDEZ
Oh, so it rots and turns…

MICHAEL LARNER
…to vinegar. It’s so hard for me to try to get control of the finches, because they’re basically endemic. They’re everywhere. So, the net keeps them out, but they’ll still find some ways, but you expect five percent damage or something like that going into it. You’re okay.

If you leave netting off, it’ll get worse.

WIL FERNANDEZ
That has to be a laborious thing to put that netting on.

MICHAEL LARNER
Yeah, so we do it all by hand. Again, if I was fortunate enough to have a flat vineyard, then we would come here with a tractor, have an overhead roll that would just spool it out.

If I bring that tractor, put the overhead roll and get on the side slopes, the tractor flips.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Oh, so if somebody has a flat vineyard—

MICHAEL LARNER
A flat vineyard’s a piece of cake.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Like up at Riverbench, they can roll it out with a machine.

MICHAEL LARNER
Yeah, they go up there, the tractor goes above it, they put it out, they can cover multiple rows and that’s actually kind of cool, because you can drive down the row still. So, the funny thing about the netting is it stretches. They sell the bag with like, 2,500 square feet, so if you’re going too fast and the guys aren’t paying attention and they can make the net really tight and short, you can get like 3,000 feet and then you’re not protecting your fruit zone.

If you’re going really slow and you’re pulling the net too much and make it too long, you get like, 2,000 feet. So you have to be like right spot on to how you’re pulling it and then getting the same distance, equal distance coverage and all that to get the right amount of length out of it.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Because you’re spending unnecessary money on netting or not getting protected….?

MICHAEL LARNER
Yeah or you’re running out of netting.

Or you’re just making it too tight and if you make it too tight, it collapses and you’re not protecting your fruit zone.

These guys are going to be coloring up here any day now so that way, you know, we’ll be ready to start putting netting and everything like that.

This is our trustee vineyard dog, Bruno. Oh, did you go for a swim? Yeah, look at that. Soaking wet.