Throughout the Western New York region, harvest season is underway – and for some types of grapes, it is ending well.
The grape harvest season is usually around September and October, depending on the type of grape and the location. Grapes like Niagra have finished harvesting while the Concord harvest is still underway.
“Across the region, early maturing varieties were harvested and processors finished with the Niagara grape harvest,” said Jennifer Phillips Russo, team leader and viticulture extension specialist for the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program. “The Niagara harvest ended very well. The quality was excellent, and it was a very clean harvest. Growers have done a great job this year in terms of pest and disease control. »
Phillips Russo said the Concord grape harvest was also better than last year, although there were still concerns over hulling and vine moth – one of the major pests in the grape industry . So far however, the incoming grapes appear to be clean and of good quality.
“The Concord awnings – the leaves – are definitely mature, and it has been mentioned that they look much better than last year”, Phillips Russo said. “A rep mentioned that powdery mildew was just starting to show up in vineyards with high-end spray programs, which is exceptional considering the amount of rain and high humidity levels in recent weeks that are favoring the sickness.”
This year’s vine shoots are also harvesting well – known as the periderm – and there is hope for great harvest potential for next season.
Peridermis formation and dormancy begins after veraison, or when the fruit softens and ripens, Phillips Russo said. Vine shoots begin to turn brown from the base of the shoot outward as the water-resistant periderm forms. The potential for next year’s harvest is already in the hardening canes, she said, and after harvest the vine food produced by the remaining leaves is converted into starch and moved into permanent parts of the vine for storage, which will again support early shoot growth and development during the next growing season.
“Caring for the vine cover is very important for healthy and sustainable viticulture”, she says.
Even though the harvest season continues on a high note, the spotted lanternfly – an invasive new species of moth extremely harmful to the grape industry – remains a concern as it was recently discovered in the Buffalo area. Community members are reminded to kill a Spotted Lantern Fly on sight and report it to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets if spotted.
Another concern for the rest of the harvest season is the weather.
“Harvesting in the rain is not ideal” Phillips Russo said. “Big machines have to move up and down the middle of vine rows, which can compact the soil below and stunt vine root growth. It also disturbs the ground, making later passes more difficult. There is also a dilution effect that can occur with rapid water absorption, which can affect soluble sugar levels by lowering them. We hope the weather will cooperate for our producers and processors. »
Phillips Russo added that LERGP is working with local farmers and growers to overcome such challenges that come with things like weather and the spotted lanternfly.
The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program consists of extension educators and faculty and research staff from Cornell University and Penn State University who cross state lines to bring together local experience and solutions research-based. The program attempts to increase yields, product quality, cultivar diversity and improvement, make production more efficient, and help farmers adopt environmentally friendly cropping and pest management strategies.
“We are all working closely with growers and industry representatives to help our regional viticulture industry be resilient and sustainable for years to come,” Phillips Russo said. “Our regional agriculture specialists are on the front lines of helping farmers overcome growing environmental and economic challenges, using the latest agricultural modernization and workforce development tools, pest and disease management, and facilitating access to emerging markets. »
According to Phillips Russo, America’s Lake Erie wine region is the largest wine region in the eastern United States. Lake Erie provides the perfect climate for over 30,000 acres of grape production in Western New York and Pennsylvania.
“Eighty percent of that acreage is Concord grapes, but we also have wine grapes and modern hybrid grapes bred to work much better in our climate,” Phillips Russo said. “Two-thirds of the grapes processed in our region are for juice, jam and jelly. Our Concord industry competes in national and international markets. Our Concords grown in this region also represent 40% of the grapes grown for wine in New York and Pennsylvania. »
Finally, Phillips Russo said that as the harvest season continues on a high note, the economic impact of the grape industry is being felt in a positive way.
“The economic impact of the Lake Erie AVA is over $80 million in equipment and buildings and over $125 million in land,” Phillips Russo said. “There is over $50 million in producer-owned processing facilities and that provides over 1,500 jobs in vineyards, juice processing and retail. Our region brings in over $30 million in farm gate sales and $172 million in retail product. We are very proud of our players in the viticulture industry and of all the time, energy and effort that growing and processing grapes takes.