A challenging season for Georgia grape producers is nearing an end as harvest is in full swing across the state. Grapes have been harvested for a month now with others maturing and ripening up.
Phil Brannen, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Fruit Disease Specialist, said the excess rainfall has not impacted the quantity of the crop but the quality remains a question mark.
“It’s been a challenge because of the rainfall. We still have continued to get a good bit of rain and a good bit of cloud cover. I know that the grapes I have looked at, most of them have done pretty well as far as keeping diseases off. Some are better than others, as far as keeping rots at bay and that kind of stuff,” Brannen said. “The vast majority of them have pretty good production. We’ll have to see what the quality of the grapes are; trying to get the sugars up and the acidity balanced in the grapes before you bring them in is challenging in a year like this.”
The challenge is expected to continue throughout the state this week as Hurricane Sally makes landfall and churns towards the northeast. In Athens, Georgia, where Brannen is located, there are high chances of rain all this week, including 100% on Thursday, according to weather.com.
While most crops like peanuts, cotton and pecans can use additional rainfall this time of year, that’s not the case for grape producers.
“The last two years have been wet, up to a point. It’s been a while since we’ve had a really dry harvest year. I think the last two have been challenging,” Brannen said. “I think it was about four years ago we had a dry harvest. That’s always just welcomed for us in the grape area. We’re always at odds with people that are like peanut producers and cotton producers where they need rainfall through the summer. When you get into August, we like to see everything shut down. It’d be great if it was bone dry for grape production at that point.”
Tough Region to Produce Grapes
When you factor in rain events, it is a lot more difficult to produce grapes in Georgia compared to California.
“It’s a challenge. You compare growing grapes in California where all the water is added through irrigation below the vine. They just don’t have the number of diseases to contend with,” Brannen said. “They really control their water flow. When they get into the harvest phase, they control that water and they can back it down. They can make a grape that has the sugars and the concentration of the acidity and everything that they want. For us, we’re just much more at the mercy of nature.”