Ideal fall weather for winegrowers, pumpkin farmers after excessive rain early summer

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Fall weather can be critical for local farmers and crops across Missouri. Both winegrowers and pumpkin farmers share some concerns after such a wet spring and summer with their harvests coming up this Fall.

With the early growing season being so rainy, local winegrowers certainly had some challenges, but are still very optimistic for a great harvest despite the potential delay.

“This has probably been the wettest spring and early summer that I can remember. Not ideal for grapes, but so far we don’t see any major problems out there so we’re optimistic that we’re going to come through with pretty clean grapes,” said Mark Blumenberg, President of Blumenhof Winery.

The ideal fall forecast for winegrowers would be a dry fall. If the wet trend continues through late August and September, there could be some issues. Some Missouri grapes, such as the Norton, are tough and resistant to disease. Other grapes are more delicate and are subject to splitting if it rains a lot after they’re in the ripening phase. A heavy downpour in late August or early September would be problematic for those grapes.

Joe Sandbrink, the winegrower of Sandy Ridge Vineyard, grows Crimson Cabernet grapes for Blumenhof Winery. These are a cross between a Norton, the state grape of Missouri, and a cabernet sauvignon, developed in 2007. He’s hoping for warm days, cool nights and some dry weather going into this fall.

“What we’re trying to do is concentrate the sugars. And to make a dry red wine you want to have around 23-24 bricks, which is kind of a fancy word for percent sugar,” Sandbrink said.

“There’s a disease called downy mildew. It’s a fungal disease that if you don’t stay up with your sprays the leaves will just turn yellow and drop off. So we want to retain those leaves so that we can get those sugars up. A wet, cool, September…that’s going to be a bit of a challenge,” he continued.

Another potential threat to the grape crop would be an early frost.

“If we were to get an early frost and lose some of our leaves if it’s bad enough it could be bad. We want to retain that canopy late in the year because those are the leaves photosynthesizing and putting sugar into these grapes,” said Sandbrink.
Overall, Blumenberg says he doesn’t expect the quality of Missouri wines to go down but is concerned for the health of some vineyards if wet weather continues into this fall.

The wet spring and summer flooding created different obstacles for pumpkin growers. Some land was underwater and most local farmers were delayed in their planting by 2-3 weeks.

“There may be a shortage early on, late September and early October. So I think by mid-month we should be fine,” Dave Thies of Thies Farms said.

“Maybe some of the really large pumpkins may be hard to come by. They need to be planted in May and I don’t think that happened with hardly anybody,” he continued.

Thies says that a lot can still happen to the pumpkin crop between now and harvest time, and heading into this fall season, the ideal weather would be dry.

“Ideally pumpkins don’t mind the heat as long as it’s not severe. They actually like it dry. Pumpkins have very vigorous root systems that can go down 3-4 feet into the soil. So they can grow when it's dry and hot like crazy,” said Thies.
He also says that dry weather will help keep the pumpkins clean of disease problems or any kind of mold or bacteria problems which are more prevalent in the rain.

Dave says it’s still too early to know whether pumpkin prices will be higher, and it’ll simply come down to supply and demand, but for now, is optimistic that we’ll have plenty of great pumpkins for carving this Halloween.

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