The arctic blast may be on its way out of here. But not before it’s done a lot of damage to crops. Experts from Brock University are now surveying Niagara’s vineyard to see how many grape buds have been lost.
Brock University grape expert Kevin Ker has been taking bud samples from about 55 vineyards around Niagara: “So we can tell growers how cold it could be before damage might occur. And we were right on the cusp with this last cold spell.”
That last cold spell with temperatures in the minus 20’s gave grape growers the chills.
Ker said: “We’re anticipating some damage. We’ve had some preliminary samples we’ve already done, showing 20-30 percent bud kill on the more sensitive varieties.”
Reisling vineyards, one of the heartier varieties may lose about five to ten per cent of their buds.
Ker said: “And what we’ll do is we’ll cut this ever so slightly. There’s a point in here. And if it’s bright green, it’s alive. And if it’s dark brown, it’s dead.”
Ker won’t have the final results for another day or two. He’s taking samples from the tender fruit orchards as well. Peach trees are telling him they’re suffering too. Tracking the damage helps growers to know when and where to turn on their wind machines. Those machines can increase the temperature as much as three degrees on the ground.
Grapes and tender fruit crops in Niagara are valued at about 150 million dollars. Ker says he’s not worried yet about the extent of the loss but: “What we’re concerned about is that we still have another eight weeks of winter to get through. If we lose ten per cent once. How much more can we afford to lose as we get further along in the winter>
Grape growers around here remember what happened here in 2005. That’s when some of them lost up to 90% of their crop because it was killed over the winter. And they don’t want to see that happen again.