Texas grape growers have talked about the problem of early spring freezes in the vineyards for several years. If the plants are awakened and ready for spring, they begin to produce buds. If a hard and long enough freeze happens, then these buds can be killed causing a loss of crop for the year. There has also always been a problem at times with freezing weather in late fall or during the winter, but “winter kill” as they sometimes call it has not been a major problem until this last season.
Normally we enjoy the moisture from the winter cold or snow such as this photo shows from February of this year. You can see more photos from time here. But the vines need to be dormant or “sleeping” for them to not be damaged by the cold weather.
Last year on October 31, 2019 there was freezing weather that caused a large amount of crop loss for High Plains grape growers. Vines that have been weakened by drought, insect injury, disease, chemical drift, or mechanical injury to the trunk or roots, will be more susceptible to this type of cold weather. The effect is much the same as the COVID virus on people with underlying health conditions. The underlying health of the vine is a factor in how much damage freezing weather will cause to the plant.
Shelly Wilfong, host of ThisisTexasWine.com podcast, discussed this with Daniel Pate on a recent podcast.
You will want to check out her web site and hear more of Shelly’s podcasts. The interview that she had with Jessica Duprey was enlightening to hear Jessica’s view on what “Texas” on the label should mean for Texas wines. Jessica has her own vineyard, so she has learned how hard it is to grow wine grapes. We do appreciate both Jessica and Shelly for their stories about Texas wine for all of us to enjoy.
We are now retraining and working with our vines to overcome damage that was caused last year. Then on October 26th through the 28th last month, we had freezing weather in the vineyards. One very good aspect about that weather event was the moisture. The moisture creates a protective layer for the vines as well as giving much needed moisture back to the soil.
Our fields for organic row crops are so dry this year that we will not be doing much deep breaking (or plowing) of the fields during the winter to destroy weeds because of lack of moisture in the soil. But we are preparing the fields as we are looking forward to planting hemp again.
Back to checking on the vineyards, our Dirt Farmer, Cliff, has been out in the vineyards cutting vines and looking for life. So what does that look like? It looks … green.
Do you see green? Yes! Yea! That is what we hope for. Signs of life. Cliff did not find much of any damage in the vines from this last freeze. This freeze will actually help develop the cold hardiness of the vines for the rest of the winter.
We hope and pray for all vines and people that we can make it through this winter freezes and the COVID virus.