Georgia’s varying elevation and the weather that comes along with it have positive and negative effects for the state’s grape growers.
University of Georgia’s Lumpkin County Extension Agent Clark MacAllister says different elevations and weather allow for different grape varieties to be grown in different areas of the state.
Below 1,200 feet in elevation, where weather is warmer and humidity is higher, MacAllister says Pierce’s disease, a bacterial disease, can prevent grape growth. He explains that at 1,200 feet or above, there is colder weather and less opportunity for Pierce’s disease to spread.
The high level of rainfall in Georgia also creates issues for growers, such as fungal diseases and high levels of pests, says MacAllister. Growers do, however, plant their grapes on slopes to allow the excess rainwater to wash off, in an effort to prevent pest and disease issues.
In northern Georgia, such as Lumpkin County, where elevations are higher and the weather is a bit colder, growers are able to grow European varieties of grapes, MacAllister says. These are of the Vitis vinifera variety, such as chardonnays and merlots.
In other areas around Georgia, where elevation does not reach the same height, hybrids are typically grown, says MacAllister. Hybrids are a combination of European varieties and American varieties. These are mixed because they are more resistant to Pierce’s disease than the European varieties alone, he says.
Due to the ability to manage these issues, MacAllister says some of the more traditional farms, such as hay fields and cattle operations, are making way for area grape growers.
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