Assessing Vineyard Cold Damages

Assessing Vineyard Cold Damages

The 2019 winter was harsh and in some areas shattered records. At this point, there may not be a lot vineyards can do to prevent additional damage if steps have not already been taken. But at a minimum you want to move air around or prevent air from being trapped into a cold air pocket that frequently happens in vineyards. Cold air pockets can still be spotted in early Spring with frost developments. Additional steps can be taken for the 2020 winter like avoid planting near large rocks or physical structures that can trap the air (or move the structures). In the meantime consider use of wind machines to move the cold air that gets trapped on the floor of the vineyard to create this cold air pockets. Also remember that direct cold damage to roots can occur if the soil temperatures drop below 23° F so you want to adequate soil moisture to buffer low temperatures.

Assessing cold damage on a timely basis when the vineyards start to de-acclimate from the cold in the spring is essential. The debate on whether to leave too many buds at pruning at the expense of pass-through after bud break requires multiple samplings and diligence. Using Pollen Systems detailed drone scouting procedures can assist the vineyard to quickly get a rapid overview of their acres and can be more accurate than walking the vineyard. In addition the decisions on whether to retain vines and blocks or replant must also be made quickly. See Washington State University Extension paper on Assessing and Managing Cold Damage in Washington Vineyards for a very thorough process to minimize any cold damage in 2019. With the recent cold wave and storms that hit the Pacific Northwest, vineyards will continue at risk of frost and cold damage as we get closer to bud break. For regions with diverse edaphic conditions and clonal varieties, managing this risk will be important. While some varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are more cold sturdy and will delay bud break until the warmer months, some may wake from their winter slumber much earlier and be exposed to unseasonably cold temperatures.

The 2019 winter was harsh and in some areas shattered records. At this point, there may not be a lot vineyards can do to prevent additional damage if steps have not already been taken. But at a minimum you want to move air around or prevent air from being trapped into a cold air pocket that frequently happens in vineyards. Cold air pockets can still be spotted in early Spring with frost developments. Additional steps can be taken for the 2020 winter like avoid planting near large rocks or physical structures that can trap the air (or move the structures). In the meantime consider use of wind machines to move the cold air that gets trapped on the floor of the vineyard to create this cold air pockets. Also remember that direct cold damage to roots can occur if the soil temperatures drop below 23° F so you want to adequate soil moisture to buffer low temperatures.

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