The Wardandi are the traditional custodians of the land in our region and their territory extends from the coast north of the Capel River to the Southern Ocean near Augusta, just to the south of us. In pre-contact time, they lived a life closely tuned to the cycles of nature impacting their lives. They recognized six separate seasons, characterized by cyclical events in nature, and foods that became available during those seasons, whose length varied yearly but were each about two months in length. They were a migratory people, moving seasonally to take advantage of the foods that became abundant at different times.
We are nearing the end of the warm season the Wardandi named Kambarang, characterized by an abundance of wildflowers. It is said that if the Western Australia Peppermint trees (Agonis flexuosa) flower abundantly during this time, it is a predictor of coming rains. This year the Peppies are in deep full blossom. If I squint, they appear to be covered in snow. It is a time where moisture is in the air, especially in the nights and dawn, with cool breezes shifting in from the Indian Ocean.
With the moisture arrives mildew pressure. Powdery mildew thrives in cool, damp, poorly ventilated areas. It loves shade and thus could possibly be an issue in our closely planted vineyard, where the distance between vines is only one meter and our cordon is only half a meter off the ground. Powdery mildew gets its name from the characteristic white powder that forms, along with a fuzzy mycelium that releases spores into the air, which in turn spread rapidly. Its presence reduces yield and quality and in some cases can lead to complete crop loss.
The dryer it is, the less worry about powdery. Spore germination is optimal in temperatures of 22-31 C, typical of this season, and to counter it, I’ve been shoot thinning as well as spraying elemental sulfur on the foliage. Sulfur is a non-specific fungicide. Its presence reduces the microbial life in the soil so I use the bare minimum, but I use it. It is only effective if applied prior to the appearance of symptoms – if powdery appears in the vine it is already too late.
I walk past the snow-like blossoms and inhale a heady aroma from the Peppies bordering the vines. The promise of a cooling rain is enticing. And before it arrives, and after it leaves, I’ll keep the sulfur level up on the foliage, without which this lovely crop would be at risk.