Starlings and voles responsible for significant drop in grape harvest

Photo: Štěpánka Kadlečková / Czech Radio

Wine growers in the Czech Republic are expecting one of the lowest harvests in the past three or four years, the daily e15 reported on Tuesday. According to estimates, this year’s grape harvest will range between 70,000 to 80,000 tonnes, which is a drop by around one third on the previous year.

Photo: Štěpánka Kadlečková / Czech Radio
The greatest damage to this year’s grape yield was caused by starlings and a widespread vole infestation, the daily e15 writes.

Another reason behind this year’s significantly lower grape harvest is the exceptionally high yield in 2018.

Jaroslav Machovec, head of the Czech Republic’s Wine Fund told the daily that the damages caused by starlings this year are estimated to reach several million crowns.

A flock of starlings can destroy up to 80 percent of the grape harvest within just a few minutes. Most Czech winegrowers are using gas-based bang-machines to drive off the birds.

Culling is only permitted in certain areas, while the protective nets that can be placed on top of the vineyards are too costly, the daily writes.

Extensive damage to Czech vineyards was also caused by a widespread vole infestation. The area most hard-hit by the overpopulated rodents is South and central Moravia.

Following the infestation of voles this summer, the Agriculture Ministry in August gave farmers in most parts of the country permission to use a certain type of rat poison, known as Stutox II, on blanket scale I fields, orchards, meadows and vineyard.

However, it quickly reversed its decision after environmentalists warned that the poison presents a serious threat to birds and other animals, including household pets, who might come into contact with the substance.

According to the Environment Ministry, the application of the substance was in violation with the law on the landscape protection.

The good news is that despite the lower harvest of grapes this year, the average price of wine is likely to stay or more or less unchanged.