USA - How a Carthage vineyard combats late frost

01.05.2024 104 views

Recent cold snaps in Southwest Missouri have threatened this year’s crops for many farmers. A late frost could decimate this year’s harvest – and it has. Murphy Orchard in Marionville, Mo. has reported 60-80% crop loss on this year’s peaches. Fortunately, they say their other crops escaped the frost unharmed.

In the region, grapes are a lesser-known but significant agricultural product. Southwest Missouri area has a longtime history with grape cultivation – one region even saving the French Wine industry in the 1800s.

Andrew Pennington, a local grapegrower and owner of Pennington wines, emphasized the importance of modern technology in monitoring weather conditions.

“We closely watch every news forecast and app. We monitor it by the hour. 35-degrees is not 32. Two or three degrees can make a world of difference when it comes to the harvest. So far, it’s been a wonderful year. It’s the most magical and scariest times of the year for a grapegrower,” he said.

When temperatures threaten the vines, Pennington says they turn to seemingly primitive interventions.

“We will set up 30-40 fires to warm the vineyards in a five-acre block. We use straw for smoke and wood for heat to keep the area warm. For every acre, we get about a ton of grapes, so it can really impact the year’s vintage, which in turn can impact tourism,” he said.

Pennington says it takes four to five years to replace a vine crop, and until recently, local and federal support was nonexistent. It wasn’t until this year that growers could apply for Missouri’s new noninsurance crop protection program – since so many lost their crops last year. Pennington says only one county in Missouri qualified to apply for that program.

The weather poses various challenges for growers like hail, wind, drought, and frost – all of which can affect the flavor profile and texture of the wine. Those conditions – even something like leaf damage – can affect the flavor profile and texture of the year’s vintage.

Despite these difficulties, Pennington says there is strength in the grape growing community.

“We are 100% in this together. We share vines and techniques. We share what works. The wine and grape community is very strong and we love to work together,” Pennington said. “It’s always challenging – but that’s what makes wine beautiful.”

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