The grape industry has been rapidly expanding in Iowa in the last decade, and while it still lags well behind the two major crops of soybeans and corn, it faced some of the same problems this year as the major cash crops. Iowa State University extension viticulturist,
Mike White, says weather conditions had a big impact on the grape crop.
White says the wet weather created disease problems in the southern half of Iowa and he guesses growers got about one-third of a crop in the southern third of Iowa and about two-thirds of a crop in the northern half. “Wet weather and grapes don’t go well together,” White says.
White says grape growers have had to battle the conditions all growing season. White says in corn and soybean production farmers spray two or three times for weeds, while grape growers have to spray on a fungicide multiple times to keep the diseases away from the grapes. He says the effectiveness of the fungicide applications often depends on the experience of the grower.
He says it’s a pretty steep learning curve on when to spray to make it effective, and he says not all growers have caught on, but “we’re coming along pretty good.” Iowa has 413 vineyards with more than 1,200 acres of grapes in production this year.
As with the corn and soybeans, the need for crop treatments adds to the cost. White says a typical vineyard spray program will have six to eight applications and that can ad up to $250 an acre in expenses. The industry has grown from 13 wineries one decade ago to 85 state-licensed vineyards this year.
A recent study commissioned by the Iowa Wine & Beer Promotion Board estimated the total economic impact of the wine industry on the state at just over $234-million.