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Unusual Weather

Grape Farmers Predicting Average Harvest Season

Local grape farmers are predicting an average harvest season despite a chilly May. Photos by Natasha Matteliano

With the unusually chilly May followed by long spurts of dry heat, local grape farmers are predicting an average harvest this year.

Jennifer Phillips Russo, Lake Erie Regional Grape Program team leader and viticulture extension specialist gave some insight about the coming grape harvest for 2020. At the end of April and beginning of May, Phillips Russo described the weather as “iffy.” The Western New York area felt the effects of frosts and chilly weather still at that time, which is not good for grapes.

“Any of the green tissue from the plant exposed to a frost dies. We were exposed to some frosts at that time and some of the buds were damaged,” Phillips Russo said. “We were really nervous about what the crop was going to be. … We thought we were going to come in really low, but it’s looking like it will be an average crop, and that’s a good thing.”

On the flip side of the frost early in the season, Phillips Russo explained that they were getting nervous in early to mid July with the very long and dry heat spell that was casted on the area. “We got lucky because just about as soon as the soil really dried out, we got hit with some really heavy rain,” Phillips Russo said. During the dry spell, it prohibited the spread of some different types of mildew and other diseases.

Overall, Phillips Russo and LERGP think this year will produce an average harvest, unlike last year when they had an over abundance of fruit. Also compared to last year, the area experienced an increase in growing degree days, which is a unit used to estimate the growth and development of plants and insects during the growing season, and an increase in precipitation.

“The weather this year was scary at first, then turned out to be really good. I think it’s turned out to be a really good year.”

According to LERGP, there are approximately 31,500 acres of vineyards in the Lake Erie region of New York and Pennsylvania. These are all grown on about 582 farms, making this area the second largest grape growing region outside of California. These farms are dependent on the research and advice from LERGP to continue with successful crops and harvests.

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