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‘Bud Break’ declared to officially begin grape growing season

May 12, 2016
By Luke Haggerty & Kevin Martin - Cornell Cooperative Extension , Westfield Republican

PORTLAND - The declaration of "Bud Break" officially starts the growing season for Lake Erie grape growers. For over 50 years the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP) has been collecting data on the many growth stages of the Concord vine for its phenology project. Research support specialist Ted Taft records and calculates this information to determine when the vines reach various milestones. On Saturday May 7, Taft officially called Bud Break.

The criteria used by LERGP to determine "Bud Break" are 50 percent of the observed buds need to have half or more of a newly formed leaf edge exposed. According to the data, the long term average date for "Bud Break" is May 4, placing the 2016 growing season only three days behind schedule.

Due to an early frost event, not all area vineyards have safely reached "Bud Break." Once again Mother Nature continues to test grape growers. On Tuesday, April 26, temperatures dipped below freezing and blanketed the grape belt in coat of frost. Although most of the grape belt made it through the frost with little damage, vineyards in Cattaraugus, Erie and part of Chautauqua counties received moderate to severe damage.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
This is a Concord grape bud at “Bud Break” in a vineyard near Portland.

The full extent of spring frost damage will not be fully understood until early summer. Despite the challenges of early spring crop estimates, economically significant damage will be isolated. The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program and growers have worked together in an effort to minimize the economic harm caused by moderate spring frost. Most growers that take full advantage of risk management tools offered by LERGP will not see any significant economic damage over the medium term. In isolated areas, some growers could see extensive damage that will result in a moderate decline in farm income.

Many grape growers were expecting a crop valued at $1,700 per acre. With most damage measured at 50 percent primary and 0 percent secondary bud mortality, if no further damage occurs, the value of the 2016 crop should not be substantially affected.

For growers in those isolated areas and growers that have not yet adopted all risk management techniques, financial hardship may be a reality. For most growers challenging market conditions continue to dampen the economic expectations of the regional juice grape crop. LERGP lends informational assistance to increase the long-term sustainability of vineyard operations.



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