By Erica Sullivan
Bill Richardson and his family have seen a hard year for corn and soybeans, but they did find some relief in their grape harvest. After an early frost, a dry summer and a wet fall, the fields were left in less than ideal condition. But overall, most of the grape varieties fared well.
Richardson, co-owner of Mallow Run Winery in Bargersville, Ind., grows eight varieties of grapes on eight acres of land. This spring he knew grape growing would be a challenge as temperatures were unseasonably high early on. When a frost came late in the spring, the primary buds on the grape vines were damaged.
Thankfully, secondary buds on the vine came through and produced a new grape crop. In general the grape quality was good, but the quantity was below average. The yield decrease was due to the frost, however, not necessarily the drought. The surviving buds did not produce as much fruit as the primary buds would have.
"The drought, if anything, probably helped things," Richardson says. "It concentrates the flavors when there is not as much water inside the grape itself. The dry weather also leads to less disease problems, so we didn't have to spray chemicals quite as much."
Some varieties also fared better than others.
"It was a crazy year for grapes. Chardonel grapes were down from what we picked last year. We had between four and five tons versus six tons last year," Richardson adds.
But compared to many row crop plants, the grapes did very well.
"We grow a lot of corn and soybeans," Richardson says. "We often get 180-200 bushel of corn, this year we are at 40 to 70 bushels. We did not have crop insurance on ours so that hurt quite a bit. Grapes certainly fared better than some other crops."
"Every year is a learning year," Jim Butler, owner of Butler wineries, told Richardson when he and his family started Mallow Run Winery.
"Well this was definitely a learning year," Richardson says. "Every time you think you know something, the weather turns out differently. You just make adjustments for it each year. We have the last round of grapes fermented, and everything is put away. Now we wait and see what's going to happen during the maturation process."
Learn more about Mallow Run winery at: www.mallowrun.com.
Sullivan is a senior at Purdue University studying Ag Communications