Muffa Alert: an interview with our agronomer

by Laura Gray on May 6, 2010

Le Due Porte vineyard - 6 May 2010Here’s a transcript(lat)ion of today’s conversation with Massimo Achilli (

 IP: Caro Massimo, should we be worried about the rain?

 MA: The growing season so far has been characterised by abnormal water levels, from the melting snow and the unusually high levels of rainfall. Lakes and rivers haven’t been this full for the last twenty years and the aquifers are brimming. The positive effect of this is should be no drought-related problems this summer.

 IP:  And this is good news since hot weather has been predicted for summer 2010, vero? It seems we’re due another 2003.

MA: That’s right, the first heatwave of “caldo africano” is due at the end of May. The alternation of this abnormally high rainfall and the predicted very hot weather will create optimum conditions for fungus formation. Not just porcini mushrooms for eating, unfortunately, but also fungus in the vineyard.

IP: What exactly is the risk?

MA: There are two potential kinds of damage. There is a risk of botrytis (grey mould) which could affect the fruit set and compromise production. The other problem could be peronospera (downy mildew) which would attack the bunch formation and leaves, again compromising production. At the moment with low temperatures there is no risk. As soon as the temperatures rise everyone in our sector is worried about these two diseases.

IP: Later in the season when B&P threaten we can intervene by hand, stripping leaves in order to let the bunches breathe, but now there’s nothing to be removed and no bunches yet to protect. What can we do?

MA: We need to follow the season closely and react to its effects. Probably we will need to do some prevention in the vineyard but we will work together to decide what and when, using a scientific analysis and keeping the intervention to an absolute minimum. If the temperatures rise as predicted I will suggest an organic treatment with “prodotti di contatto” – a direct application of products that will kill the fungus on the vine-leaf when it appears – but only if the threat of the “muffe” (mould) is there.

 IP: What else should we expect?

 MA: Be prepared for monstrous growth. When the sun comes out we’re looking at 15 cm of growth per vine per day. In the few hot days last week the vines were producing a 3cm leaf a day… Now that they are bigger, and with all this rain, the growth will be extremely vigorous.

 IP: And what about the volcano ash?

 MA: No effects or risk at all.

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