September 1, 2014

Half of state grape crop may be lost to frost

Some Iowa crops were nipped by frost after a third straight night of freezing temperatures. Fruit and vegetable growers are still doing surveys but several of them report significant damage to crops including: apples, strawberries and grapes.

Mike White, a specialist at the Iowa State University Extension, says up to half of Iowa’s grape crop may’ve been lost. White says grape growers went to great lengths to try and save the buds on the vines which emerged several weeks early.

“They were spraying water on the crop from three o’clock until four o’clock in the morning, they were lighting fires,” White says. “All these measures that we use to protect the crop, they can give you four or five degrees below-zero protection. Once you hit around 25 degrees, there’s nothing you can do.”

White says producers hoped for the best when the vines produced buds so early, after the mild winter and the warmest-ever Iowa March. “The first bud puts out a shoot that is 100-percent crop,” White says. “If it gets frozen off, another bud comes out and that’s about a 50% crop. If it gets frosted off, a third bud comes out. It’s pretty tough but it just produces leaves.”

White says the wine industry in Iowa is so new that producers don’t qualify for federal crop insurance. Iowa has 99 licensed wineries with about 300 growers covering 1,200 acres.