Vineyard Frost Protection
The road from budbreak to harvest on a vineyard is a perilous one: depending on where your vineyard is located, mildew, disease, insects, animals and even rain can stand between you and a fully ripened and healthy crop of high-quality wine grapes.
When it comes to threats, however, one stands above the rest in its ability to nip a grape crop in the bud (literally): frost. Frost damage occurs when temperatures drop below freezing once green growth appears from a bud. If frost strikes, it can greatly reduce or even wipe out the whole vintage.
The problem with frost, of course, is that you can’t control the weather. But there are some things you can do to prevent or minimize frost damage – let’s take a look at a few.
Choose the right site
If you already have an established vineyard or limited space, you probably have little control over site selection. But if you’re in the early planning stages of a vineyard, there are some things to keep in mind before you plant:
- If there are any hills on your site, try to avoid planting in low spots and other areas where cold air can become trapped (remember: cold air sinks and hot air rises).
- If possible, plant vines on the upper sides of hills or slopes where cold air can “drain” or flow down to lower locations.
- Take the time to find warm or cold spots and use them to your advantage.
Choose the right varietals
All grape varieties have different growth characteristics; choose types that are most likely to survive in your climate. Some vines, for example, have their budbreak much sooner than others. The nursery where you purchase your vines can usually provide information about the characteristics of your chosen vines.
Also, keep in mind that the actual date of budbreak can vary by a week or more from year to year. A dormant bud has no problem coping with freezing temps, but as the bud swells, it becomes increasingly frost averse. Choosing a variety with later budbreak will help you to avoid the periods of danger in your growing region.
One of the most practical ways to avoid frost damage in your vineyard is to use a grapevine’s growth habits to your advantage; one way to do this is by using delayed pruning or double pruning. Delayed pruning means putting off pruning until later in the season – the logic being that once you prune buds away, your crop becomes more susceptible to frost loss simply because fewer buds remain as potential survivors.
If delayed pruning is impractical, double pruning could be helpful. Double pruning involves pruning in two stages – a rough pruning when the vine is dormant and a final pruning just after budbreak. Double pruning will not delay budbreak as long as delayed pruning will, but is an excellent compromise if you have a lot of pruning to do.
Protect your vines
While you can’t control the weather, you can fight back against Mother Nature. Vintners have long used heat to combat the arrival of frost to their crops – in California and other regions, propane-powered wind machines are often used to keep warm air circulating to prevent frost from damaging a season’s precious crop of grapes.
But a wind machine will only do its job if it is fueled and ready to go immediately when the weather turns – that’s where Allied Propane’s Frost Protection support services come in.
Become an Allied Propane customer today and we will take the worry out of frost protection at your vineyard, with services that include:
- Propane tank installation, with tanks in a range of fill capacities;
- Expert pipe installation and maintenance, to ensure continual, dependable operation of your wind equipment; and
- Automatic propane tank monitoring and delivery, to keep a real-time account of your propane levels so you will never be caught off guard by a change in the weather.
Our propane experts will work with you to choose and install equipment that is properly sized and installed for the unique needs of your vineyard and business. Once your equipment is installed, we will make sure it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice so you can focus your efforts on making amazing wine for us to enjoy
The bottom line
Frost in a vineyard isn’t fun, but with some planning, you can minimize frost risk and loss and produce a healthy crop of quality grapes. Do some research and find out when frost is most likely to be a threat in your vineyard; this will help your grapes to get the start they need to become your next delicious vintage of wine!
Protect your vineyard with Allied Propane’s Frost Protection support services – Contact us today to learn more!