Optimistic For The Season
History does not always repeat itself. The grape crop this year, unlike last year’s crop, is expected to be heavy for the Concord and Niagara juice grapes.
Luke Haggerty, viticulture extension associate from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, said the crop for juice grapes is expected to be good.
“The juice grapes … they all seem to be pretty heavy this year. There’s going to be a very, very large crop this year,” Haggerty said.
The large crop this year can be attributed to last year’s crop. A frost early in the season doomed most of the crop last year but a good growing season helped this year’s crop.
“Last year’s crop we had that early frost, so there wasn’t a lot of grapes. Then we had a really good growing system, the vines did really well there,” said Haggerty. “The vines are really ready to go and push out a giant crop.”
Some farmers and growers even started to use their harvester on the crop already prior to the season starting, according to Haggerty. Some growers wanted to thin out their crops prior to harvest since they are seeing more tons of grapes per acre than in past years.
“They just want to take 5 or 10 percent (of the crop). They want to be around 8 or 9 (tons per acre) and this year they’re seeing they’re at 15 tons an acre. Some people who want to be around 10 tons an acre are at 20 (tons) so they had to go out and thin out some of their grapes. Some growers did that but some chose not to do that. If they push their grapes real hard this year or they have a large tonnage per acre this year, the next year the vines might not do as well,” said Haggerty. “It’s all about trying to find a balance.”
Richard Feinen of Feinen Farms said his crop of grapes this year is the largest he’s seen in recent years. He said last year’s crop was the worse he’s seen in two decades.
“Definitely last year was the worse year I’ve put in since 1980,” said Feinen. “(This year) it’s going to be, tonnage wise, one of the best years.”
Feinen has Concord and Niagara grapes on his farm, the majority which are sold to processors but some are sold at the farm’s fruit stand. Although the weather has been cooperative for the most part, rain has been persistent, which could be good and bad for the fruit. Too much rain can cause disease for the fruit.
“A lot of rain and this cool weather, there’s more of a disease pressure that goes along with some of the fruit. The grape vines are pretty resilient and we can get dry years and they can still do pretty good,” Haggerty said.
“The older the plant the deeper the root goes and less important the rain is. You always need some of the rain. This last rain … we still need some good rain to keep them growing. … Some rain is good now but the rain really is contributing to the disease so a little is good but a lot of it is hurting us,” he concluded.
Harvesting for grapes usually starts mid-September and will run approximately six weeks. The next big action prior to harvesting is the process of veraison, or the coloring change in the grapes. This is expected to happen around Aug. 19. Until harvest, the amount of rain could be crucial.
“After (veraison) happens, we don’t want to see much rain after that until harvest is over. After veraison there will be a lot more color when you drive around,” Haggerty said.
David Privitera of Privitera Farms said he will, like Feinen, have a good crop of grapes this year. He said he has seen some challenges with the rain. He said he is still waiting to see what the weather will bring from now until through September.
“It’s still looking good. It looks like we’re having a good crop,” he said. “Hopefully the weather will hold out. It’s been a challenging summer with the rain.”
To ensure a good harvest and a ripe crop, there needs to be sunshine and warm temperatures until the harvest begins next month, Feinen said.
“We’ve been lacking sunshine the past few weeks. We still need six to eight weeks of good weather,” Feinen said.