Drought conditions are good news for area grape growers - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Drought conditions are good news for area grape growers

TERRY COUNTY, TX (KCBD) -

While the extreme drought in the South Plains is causing major problems for crops and cattle, one business is thriving in these dry conditions. Grape producers are doing extremely well in both crop yield and quality of the grapes they're producing this year.

"The only thing that would be a little bit better is if it wasn't quite the 103 degrees…  if it would stay in the low to mid 90's I'd be a lot happier, but right now the grapes are pretty happy," said Dusty Timmons, AgLife Extension associate and wine grape producer.

Timmons has been producing grapes in Terry County for about seven years and says these desert-like conditions are perfect for his crop.  "A rain will actually set you back. The rain gets into the skin of the berries, dilutes the sugars and thus delays ripening," said Timmons.

No rain also means shorter vine shoots, three feet in length and shorter. "The soil is very fertile here, and with rain the shoots can grow as much as 30 feet. That excessive shoot growth will lower your wine quality because it causes too much shading," said Timmons.

On top of that, grapes require significantly less water than most other crops, and draw most of its moisture from their deep root systems reaching 16 feet underground. "Over the course of a growing season, you're talking about in the neighborhood of 50 to 60% less irrigation than what your typical cotton crop will need," he said.

The drought and high winds have also protected the crops from their number one enemy, fungal disease – something that can significantly damage the grapes.

"While the winds have made it a nightmare to work in the vineyard because you're fighting sand, and your cleaning your ears out, and washing your tan off every day, it's actually a blessing. It's very difficult for any fungus to live when you have 0% relative humidity and 60 mile an hour winds," he said.

Timmons also says they'll be able to harvest about eight to 10 days earlier than normal with a great crop to send to the wineries.

Terry County produces 50 – 70 % of the state's wine grapes with the most varieties at 32 and produces the most revenue of any county in Texas.

Copyright 2011 KCBD. All rights reserved

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