Concord bud at ‘Bud Break’ in vineyard near Portland, NY.    
(Photo courtesy of Luke Hagg

Concord bud at ‘Bud Break’ in vineyard near Portland, NY. (Photo courtesy of Luke Hagg

Official Start to the Grape Growing Season

By Luke Haggerty & Kevin Martin

PORTLAND, N.Y. – (May 11, 2016) The declaration of ‘Bud Break’ officially starts the growing season for Lake Erie grape growers. For over fifty 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 7th, Taft officially called Bud Break.

The criteria used by LERGP to determine ‘Bud Break’ are 50% 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 4th, 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 26th, temperatures dipped below freezing and blanketed the grape belt in a 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.

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% primary and 0% 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.

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a community based educational organization, affiliated with Cornell University, Chautauqua County Government, the NYS SUNY system, and the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, call 716-664-9502 or visit our website at Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.

Last updated May 13, 2016