Good Neighbors and Fine Wines

Row Crops and Wine Grapes Pair Well on Missouri Farm

An hour west of St. Louis sits a picturesque two-acre vineyard that grows a new variety of grapes, Crimson Cabernet, exclusively for Blumenhof Winery.

Craig Hoemann and Joe Sandbrink, right, former Technology Development Manager for Monsanto

Wine grapes aren't an easy crop to grow; under the best conditions, it still took owner Joe Sandbrink about three years to harvest his first grape crop. This specialty crop requires a lot of preparation, and it's imperative to keep weeds in check and disease pressure down for grapevines to thrive. Challenges come in many forms, as birds and other animals can also pose a problem.

One challenge that doesn't faze Sandbrink is the XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology, a restricted use pesticide, that's applied in close proximity to his vineyard. In addition to wine grapes and hay, he also has 40 acres he leases to a local farmer. That farmer and neighbor, Craig Hoemann, sprayed XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology on his Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans last season, as did several other farmers within a one-mile radius of Sandbrink's vineyard.

"We have Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans on our farm, just about 150 feet from the edge of our vineyard," Sandbrink explains. "We work very closely with the farmer who raises them to make sure our wine grapes are not affected."

Communication Is Key

That transparency put Sandbrink at ease, building his confidence in the ability of grapes and row crops to grow in harmony.

"I felt very confident, especially after seeing how diligent Craig and his team were to follow the label and do everything right," he says. "We talked at the beginning of the season and I also read up on the label requirements. We knew that if we worked together to pick the right application day, the right environmental conditions and the right nozzle, along with a drift reduction agent, we would be successful.

"The vines remained very healthy and vigorous with no signs of damage whatsoever," he recalls.

And how did those nearby row crops fare?

"The weed control was excellent," Sandbrink shares. "We've historically had lots of challenges with marestail and waterhemp, but this year, our fields were very clean and the yield was the best we've ever had."

Sandbrink has simple advice for other farmers who grow sensitive crops near Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System crops: "Talk to your neighbors."

He continues, "I think the communication piece of this is very critical, especially around high-value, niche crops. Get to know your neighbors, if you don't already, and discuss the label requirements."

This communication worked well for Sandbrink, who has a unique perspective on the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System and XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology; he's not only a farmer, he's also a former Technology Development Manager for Monsanto. "I want to be a good neighbor and a good steward of the technology," he says. "I think this is a great tool for farmers; I'm pleased that it worked well for my neighbors, with no effect on my grapes."

Now that's an innovation worth toasting to.

By: Nancy Hallahan

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