It can be very frustrating to bring a wonderful table grape crop through its stages of development and then lose it to "critters" at the moment of harvest. Birds and raccoons are often the culprits, but skunks or deer can also be a problem. Control measures for these problems range from slightly to totally effective and inexpensive to costly.
Control of birds begins with the location of the vineyard and its surroundings. Vineyards close to roosting sites for birds such as trees or high-tension wires attract bird problems. Scare devices such as snake and hawk decoys, colored streamers, shiny aluminum pans and scarecrows can be partially effective. Some audio devices scare birds at first, but they can become conditioned to these. Relatively new devices that play distress calls of specific bird species have had encouraging results. Unfortunately, bird pecks on a few berries may destroy the worth of an entire cluster of table grapes. The only foolproof way to control heavy bird depredation pressure is netting. Netting should extend all the way to the ground. This is often cost prohibitive.
Raccoon depredation can be especially frustrating when these midnight marauders harvest the crop the day before you intended to do so. For those who find it cost effective, a two-wire electric fence system is highly successful in combating this problem. Specialized high voltage/low amperage fence charging units can be used. Some are kept charged with a solar panel. Signs can help avoid human contact with the fence, and the charger can be put on a timer so the wires are charged only at night. Clear a strip of vegetation 2 to 3 feet wide around the vineyard with herbicides and/or mowing. Establish the fence with two wires at heights of 6 and 12 inches above the ground (Fig. 20). Raccoons can't jump! They will crawl either over or under this low fence. In either case, a shocking experience is assured. If you anticipate raccoon problems, set up fencing at the early stages of fruit ripening. Live trapping and relocation has also been used effectively to control this problem. Deer occasionally munch on table grapes. Consult your Extension agent for current recommendations on deer control.
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