Common Miscommunication Problems between Grape Growers and Nursery Plant Suppliers

Short or no delivery       Obtaining accurate source records       Poorly graded material       Off-type plants in order       Cancellations & changes       Late planting       Diseased scion wood       Poor establishment       For more information

Jim Wolpert and Andy Walker, University of California, Davis
Adapted from a three-part article that appeared in American Vineyard magazine, April, May and June, 1996.

Grape growers often experience problems when they order grapevines from a nursery. Here are some common problems and how to solve them.

Problem: Order is short or not delivered.
Solution: Nursery propagation success is not always predictable and problems can occur at various points in the process, leaving nurseries with shortages of rootstock/scion combinations. Growers are advised to stay in frequent communication with the nursery and, if at all possible, to visit the nursery and check on their order at least once during the propagation process. The earlier problems are discovered, the more likely alternate plans can be made.

Problem: Difficulty in obtaining accurate source records for vines from the nursery.
Solution: Accurate records are important in the event that a problem is discovered in a specific source of vines (for example, a newly discovered virus or a problem with trueness-to-type). Growers are advised to discuss with the nursery in advance what kind of source information is shipped with orders and ask to see an example. Growers should safeguard this information and keep it filed where it can be retrieved, realizing that the need for it might be years in the future.

Problem: Poorly graded materials.
Solution: Growers should closely examine the shipment prior to accepting it. This will mean opening several bundles of dormant vines or flats of green-growing vines. Examine material for uniformity and adherence to the previously agreed-upon standards. In order to have this discussion, growers are advised to understand nursery materials standards (see Quality Guidelines for Grapevine Nursery Stock) and even visit the nursery to examine examples of these standards and the vines they have ordered. The best time to solve this problem is before vines are planted.

Problem: Off-type plants mixed in with the order.
Solution: Walk your vineyard as soon as growth has taken place to look for off-type plants. At an early age, these are most obvious in the color/nature of the shoot tips. Off-type plants are an indication of poor quality control and should raise a “red flag”; if off-types occur in scions, it may also indicate there are also mix-ups with rootstock cuttings, a problem that cannot be detected in bench grafts.

Problem: Order cancellations or late changes.
Solution: Nurseries invest a significant amount of money creating a buyer’s order. They also understand that plans sometimes change because of issues outside the grower’s control. Nevertheless, growers should keep nurseries apprised of changes as soon as possible.

Problem: Late planting.
Solution: When vineyard site preparations are delayed, growers will ask nurseries to postpone delivery of planting materials. The longer vines remain in cold storage, the more likely they are to decline in quality. Nurseries make every effort to maintain adequate cold storage conditions, but this can be difficult in warm summer conditions. Furthermore, vines delivered later in the growing season are more likely to be exposed to environmental stress during and after planting and will have a shortened growing season for their first year. Both factors can lead to less than ideal establishment and are not the fault of the nursery.

Problem: Buyers using diseased field-selected scion wood.
Solution: Growers sometimes supply scion budwood to a nursery for grafting onto the desired rootstock, unaware that the field selection is infected with viruses. These viruses can affect propagation success, depending on the seriousness of the virus-rootstock interaction. This unknown makes it impossible for a nursery to predict grafting percentage and risks a shortage upon delivery. More commonly, virus symptoms and graft union failure occur after planting and with the first cropping year, as the resulting stress of bearing a crop kills the vine. Growers are always advised to use certified virus-tested planting stock to reduce this risk, not to mention the long-term cost associated with virus-infected vines.

Problem: Blame for poor establishment.
Solution: When a vineyard gets off to a poor start, the first tendency of a grower or nursery is to blame the other party, but often without having done any investigation. Planting a vineyard is complicated and fraught with problems. Growers are advised to keep notes on planting dates, conditions, irrigation practices, etc. Problems may appear months later and memories are more reliable when triggered by notes and observations. In the event of problems, a third-party assessment, such as that from a state Extension specialist, will be valuable in determining the cause of poor performance.

Recommended Resources

Quality Guidelines for Grapevine Nursery Stock

Ordering Grapevine Cuttings and Plants from Nurseries

Reviewed by Eric Stafne, Mississippi State University
and Bruce Bordelon, Purdue University