Texas Grape Yields, Quality Looking Better than Expected

Whether table grapes or grapes for winemaking, growers throughout the state are seeing or expecting good harvests in spite of early season weather concerns, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and industry experts.

“Right now it’s looking like there will be good to better-than-average crops of grapes in most of the state, both in yield and quality,” said Bill Blackmon, board member at large for the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and co-owner of William Chris Vineyards in Hye.

“From what I’ve seen, the crops in the High Plains and Hill Country are coming along well. We also have a vineyard in Tyler, and if the crop there is any indication, grape crops in East Texas are also looking pretty good.”

Ironically, although excessive early season rains added disease pressure to many Hill Country vineyards, Blackmon said he is hoping for additional rain to irrigate his vineyard now that another dry, hot summer has set in.

“Early in the season, some Hill Country producers didn’t fare as well due to a freeze that occurred the Monday after Easter,” said Jim Kamas, AgriLife Extension fruit specialist in Fredericksburg. “Producers west of U.S. Highway 281 fared better than those to the east, as many to the east lost a significant portion of their crop with a few losing their entire crop due to the freeze.”

Kamas also noted Hill Country producers had to be diligent in disease treatment due to excess moisture from spring rains.

“Producers who applied fungicide at the appropriate time were able to stave off most diseases affecting grape crops, such as anthracnose, powdery mildew, downy mildew and black rot,” he said. “Those producers who treated will probably see good clusters and high-quality fruit along with decent yields. However, producers who did not treat in time will likely see lower yields and lesser fruit quality.”

Fran Pontasch, AgriLife Extension viticulture program specialist for the Gulf Coast, said harvesting of both blanc du bois white grapes and black Spanish grapes has begun in that region.

“While the blanc du bois clusters are loose, the grapes are large and fruit quality seems decent,” Pontasch said. “In all, it looks like there will be moderate crop yields for this area. There won’t be a big crop, but it won’t be small either.”

However, she said, both grape quality and yield are better than producers expected earlier in the season.

“A lot of producers were worried about not having much of a harvest due to the rainfall and greatly increased disease pressure from all that moisture,” she said. “I have to say the producers generally did a great job of treating their crops to prevent fungal disease.”

Michael Cook, AgriLife Extension viticulture program specialist for the agency’s North Texas district, said in terms of viticulture he views the 55-county region as comprised of northwest, north central and northeast sub-region. He said the white grape harvest will soon begin with the red grape harvest to follow.

Cook said the northwest portion of the region has been drier this year, even with the early season precipitation, and producers are seeing good crop loads.

“Producers in this part of the district have been managing disease well and as a result are getting good results,” he said.

However, Cook noted, in the north central portion the early season weather was wetter, leaving producers to deal with some fungal pathogens, especially black rot.

“As a result, we’re seeing some cluster failure, so the crop there will be anything from fair to very good,” he said. “The growers who have been able to manage disease pressure and their canopies are doing very well.”

The overall crop performance of the eastern portion of the North Texas district could best be described as “spotty,” he said.

“Some producers are doing well in their disease management but there is much more disease pressure in this sub-region due to the abundance of rainfall during the early season coupled with high disease pressure last season,” he said. “We’ve had downy mildew incidents in that area, as well as copious amounts of black rot.”

He said this sub-region will likely see fair to good crops overall — in spite of the fact some producers lost their entire crop due to fungal disease earlier in the season.

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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