Texas Vineyards Report Low Yields and High Quality Grapes | Land & Breeding post
Adam Russell Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Texas wine grape vineyards were recording below-average yields and above-average quality after a tough 2022 growing season, according to experts at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Drought and extreme heat have impacted yields in all regions of Texas, but the arid conditions have brought benefits, especially in areas that historically experience greater fungal disease pressure due to rainfall and high humidity. AgriLife Extension grape growers Fran Pontasch, Bryan-College Station; Brianna Crowley, Fredericksburg; Michael Cook, Denton; and Daniel Hillin, Lubbock; provided a general overview of the season for their respective regions.
Pontasch said the harvest was winding down along the Gulf Coast. The drought and heat led to below average yields, but also contributed to the exceptional quality of the grapes.
Disease pressure was much lower than usual because humidity levels were low. The dry conditions also contributed to the good sugar content of Blanc du Bois, the main grape grown in the region.
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“Wood White is an early variety and luckily it was ready for harvest about six weeks after drought conditions here,” she said. “So the grapes did not benefit from any disease and were of very good quality with some irrigation.”
The 2022 season has also been a year of expansion in Coastal Bend, Pontasch said. Growers were adding capacity with new acres, new vines and new varieties to serve the incredible number of vineyards.
Growers in the state’s Coastal Bend region are limited in the grape varieties they can grow due to hot and humid conditions. Most vineyards are small — 2 to 3 acres, Pontasch said. But they are coming together to bring in large yields of wood white to meet demand in and out of state.
New varieties emerging from California, Florida and Arkansas that may suit conditions in the region could further expand the opportunities for vineyards in the region, she said.
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Crowley said vineyards began experiencing severe drought much earlier than many parts of the state. The rainfall total since October was around 4 to 5 inches for many growers this season.
The result was a low crop load despite irrigation, she said. Crowley estimated that grape yields would be 30-50% of the average growing season.
Fruit size, as with many fruit plants, on the vines was smaller than normal, she said. But the quality was good.
“It was very dry, and the heat came in early and was relentless,” she said. “Thus, it has been difficult to get the vine’s root systems the moisture they need to function effectively.”
Disease pressure was low this season, but heat and drought stress compounded the problems with recovering the vine from the Uri winter storm and isolated disease outbreaks. Crowley said cases of botrytis, a fruit-damaging fungus, could have occurred after several dewy mornings.
High Plains and West Texas
Hillin said the 2022 season started a few weeks late in the High Plains, but is expected to end a little earlier. The Hautes Plaines winegrowers are halfway through the harvest.
A lack of early season rainfall and cool spring temperatures slowed bud break, but high temperatures in May and June accelerated ripening and the ripening process to harvest. Hillin said it was too early to speculate on yield figures, but the quality seemed excellent so far.
“The story this season was early bud break, severe drought and several days above 100 degrees,” he said. “Producers have irrigated a lot this year to keep everything going, but overall, in terms of quality, it’s going to be good.
High Plains vineyards produce about 80 to 85 percent of Texas wine grapes, he said. The drier climate allows winemakers to produce around 30 different varieties of Vitis vinifera. The unique terroir of the American wine-growing area of the Hautes Plaines is conducive to the cultivation of these high quality French, Italian and Spanish grape varieties.
Hillin said growers continue to install new acres in the High Plains and West Texas regions, while some are experiencing weather-related setbacks from extreme heat or frost.
Winter damage is always a concern in the High Plains and occurs every year, he said. However, the region did not experience the extreme number of injuries and crop losses that occurred in other regions due to the Uri winter storm, as the vines were still well into their dormant period at the time. ‘era.
“Winemakers will have a better idea of how the overall quality of the grapes will translate into the 2022 vintage, but aside from the excess heat and water stress this year, the vines have held up pretty well,” he said. -he declares. “The quality of this region is always good.
Cook said growers in North Texas experienced similar weather conditions, including a late start and early end amid drought and high temperatures. Fruit set and size were slightly below normal, but he said high winds contributed to early losses.
The region saw many more days with winds of 40 miles per hour or more in April and May than normal, Cook said.
“There were no losses from a late spring frost, but high winds contributed to fruit set 10-30% lower than normal, depending on the variety,” he said. “Quality has been good, and we had some critical rain earlier in the season which helped.”
The dry conditions also helped the fruit avoid disease, Cook said. But there have been some issues with vines of Blanc du Bois and Tempranillo that were damaged by the Uri winter storm, particularly in vineyards where recycling vines was an issue.
Blanc du bois vines were recycled from the ground while Tempranillo grafted vines were pushed back a foot and recycled from the suckers that way, he said. The recycling process can take several seasons for fruit yields to recover.
The drought has exacerbated the stress on damaged plants, and that’s been seen this summer, Cook said.
“There were challenges, but the quality has been phenomenal, and I think many producers and wineries seem to have bounced back from the pandemic issues and many are currently in the process of fermentation,” he said. . “So 2022 should be a great vintage for North Texas.”
Crowley agreed that Texas vineyards were likely producing a good vintage despite recent challenges.
Demand for Texas wine grapes remains strong, and quality will determine prices for growers, Crowley said. Any price increases consumers might see will likely be related to processing and logistics costs, including labor, bottles, and shipping.
“Texas growers are tenacious because they’re growing in a very hostile environment,” she said. “The vines face constant stress in a normal year, but this year was particularly difficult due to compound stressors. But even after all the challenges, I think the 2022 season should produce a great vintage.