Lodi-Area vineyards still feeling impact of ‘devastating’ April frost – CBS Sacramento
LODI (CBS13) – Grape growers in the Lodi region were left in the cold after a hard frost a month ago.
Stuart Spencer is the executive director of the Lodi Wine Grape Commission. He is also a farmer.
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“Well, it all started well until April 12 when we had a devastating freeze in the Lodi area,” he said.
There are 100,000 acres of wine grapes in the area, and frost badly affected a Walnut Grove vineyard near I-5. What looks like grapes are actually frost-damaged leaves.
“Looks like someone brought a blowtorch to the vineyard,” Spencer said. “The leaves are all black and brown and wilting.”
Spencer said not all varieties were affected and some vines will recover.
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“They will sprout new shoots, but your harvest on those new shoots will probably be 25-50% of what it could have been,” he said.
The other challenge is that when the fruit is ready, it can ripen unevenly.
“Sometimes it’s unevenly frosted, so you can have parts with really good fruit ripening early and parts that are 2-4 weeks late,” Spencer said. “And that makes it really difficult to harvest when they’re all in one row and you’re trying to pick them all for one customer.”
About 600,000 tons of wine grapes are harvested in the Lodi region, bringing in $300 million, or one-fifth of California’s total production. Spencer fears April’s frost will freeze next year’s buds and growth and, as a result, cause millions in damage.
“Honestly, you really don’t know until you harvest the grapes and see what next year’s harvest will be and you’re like, ‘Why don’t I have so many grapes here?’ ” he said. “And then you remember ‘Yeah, we had a freeze here.’ ”
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Spencer said there is crop insurance available, but often it just helps farmers break even and really doesn’t cover overhead. In the meantime, they still have to fertilize and water to get an even lower yield.