USA - Heat bears down on California grapes


California grape growers continue to contend with heat and drought issues. 

“There is ample volume of red and green seedless. There will be some shortages though I imagine,” says Philippe Markarian of Fresno, CA-based Mirabella Farms. “We won’t see them at the moment but it will be on red and black seedless grapes. They seem to have gotten the most damage from the heat. I believe it’s because the color of the fruit is absorbing the heat whereas the green grapes, while had more damage early on, now they’re able to reflect the light instead of absorbing it.” 

The heat is slowing down the maturity of grapes. “Typically in hot temperatures, the plant will retrieve sugars and store more carbohydrates to deal with the heat stress,” says Markarian. “So sugar development in the fruit is slower.” He also adds that the leafy canopy has a tendency as well to defoliate if it’s stressed too much by the heat, and that defoliation in turn can cause sunburn on certain varieties. 

This means growers are turning to ways to mitigate the weather’s effects from increasing the frequency of watering to managing the humidity and temperature beneath the canopy. “Growers are also letting the grass grow down the centers of the rows to help reduce the reflection,” says Markarian. 

Autumn varieties ahead 

On varieties, currently Jack’s Salutes and Scarlet Royals are being harvested and Markarian says it will move into Autumn Royals in the next 10-12 days. “Autumn Kings are roughly 2-2.5 weeks away and then we’ll have a few Red Globes later into the season and into October,” he says. 

As for demand, it’s fair at the moment. “It’s stronger on the red and black seedless,” he says. “Green seedless at the moment is still a bit sluggish and I believe that’s mostly due to multiple varieties being harvested at the same time. It’s a bombardment of the green seedless at once.” 

This has left pricing at fair levels as well. While the green market is softer given those high volumes, the red market is stronger in pricing. “As we get through the end of this month and into the middle of September, then I can see that the green market will turn around and be on a better road,” says Markarian. 


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