Area vineyard damage being analyzed

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Over the last two weeks of March, Finger Lakes Grape Program and Cornell research staff cut over 14,000 buds to assess the level of bud injury in vineyards due to the cold temperatures experienced around the region this year.

It appears there are still factors that will impact this year’s crop, and there is no indication how much damage has been done to trunks.

“While vines can survive a certain amount of injury to the vascular tissues in a trunk, at a certain point the damage can be too much and the vine will collapse. Given the high level of bud injury in some varieties and locations, it seems likely that there will be some amount of trunk injury as well,” writes Hans Walter-Peterson in his report on the research.

Walter-Peterson and Michael Colizzi analyzed samples of 16 different varieties collected from 20 different sites on Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga and Skaneateles Lakes. “Most of the samples consisted of 100 buds, but occasionally we had fewer buds available from a particular variety at a certain site. In those cases, we analyzed a minimum of 50 buds,” says Walter-Peterson.

In presenting the results of their study, Walter-Peterson says it’s as important to look at what the survey doesn’t say as it is to look at the data that it does reveal.

Walter-Peterson says that they studied very small samples, given the number of buds in any vineyard block.

“Somebody else could take another sample in the same block and come up with different results. When collecting our samples, we tried to collect buds from various parts of a block in order to try to best represent the conditions,” he explains in his report, adding, “If a block is sloped, for example, we would try to collect buds from the top, middle and bottom of the slope to try to capture the potential variation in injury across those different parts of the vineyard.

“We felt that it was important to include the range of injury for a given variety as a way to indicate that the level of injury varies a lot depending on location. For example, injury in Pinot noir ranged anywhere from 18 percent to 100 percent, depending on where the vineyard was located. We believe that this data is just as important, if not more so, as the average percentage of injury,” Walter-Peterson wrote.

He further reports, “The level of bud injury for a given variety does not necessarily mean that the final crop this year will be reduced by that amount. Growers have held off pruning many of these varieties, especially more cold sensitive vinifera cultivars, until they had a sense of how much injury there was in a given block. By doing so, they are able to make decisions about how to compensate for the amount of injury by retaining more buds on the vines, and therefore increasing the chance to have more live buds that will produce clusters. In addition, hybrid and native cultivars like Concord and Cayuga White generally produce more clusters from secondary, tertiary and “noncount” buds than do vinifera varieties like Chardonnay and Riesling. Therefore, a loss of 25 percent of primary buds in these varieties will be less likely to result in a 25 percent crop loss as well, even if no pruning adjustments are made.

“Finally, the injury caused by this winter’s cold has no relation to the quality of the fruit that will be produced this year. While the quantity of some varieties will be significantly lower than normal, the conditions of the upcoming growing season — temperatures, sunshine, rainfall, etc. — will dictate the types and styles of wines that will be produced this year, as is always the case.”

The results in the chart are organized by variety. The chart indicates the number of samples collected for each variety, the range of primary bud injury found in those samples for that variety, and the overall average for each variety.