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Grape cultivars that work in Iowa’s climate, soil

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Ray and Lisa Winter, left, from Winterhaven Vineyard and Nursery, pour a sample of some wine made from grapes at their vineyard in Janesville, Minn. The Winters were just one of approximately 40 vendors that were displayed during the 2009 Iowa Wine Growers Assocation Annual Conference held last week in Des Moines.

DES MOINES – During last month’s Iowa Wine Growers Association’s 2009 annual conference, those interested in growing grapes learned about cultivars that are expressly suited for growing in the cooler soils of the Midwest in general, and in Iowa specifically.

Dr. Paul Domoto a professor of horticulture at Iowa State University presented a look at the cultivars in different regions of Iowa and how they have been performing.

He explained what research is being done with different cultivars on research farms throughout Iowa and that a wide range of areas across the state are beneficial to grape research.

“There is a good representation of soils and weather with the different research stations throughout the state,” said Domoto.

The Grape Cultivar Trials include the 2002 Leopold Grape Cultivar Management System Trial, conducted at the ISU Horticulture Research Station in Ames, and the ISU Armstrong Research and Demonstration Farm, the 2003 Wine Grape Cultivar Trial, and the 2008 NE-1020 Grape Cultivar Trial being conducted at the Ames sites and the Tabor Home Vineyards in Baldwin.

He explained in detail how grapes are performing over the years of the study and how last year’s growing season affected the crops. Winds, rain and a spring frost were just a few of the challenges they faced with the trials, as well as the cold winter the vines experienced, which will be a major factor on trial results this year.

When it comes to certain cultivars the Frontenac, Domoto said, has been doing well in Iowa.

“The Frontenac is a high-acid grape, but does well. There’s a low bud injury and it seems to be highly productive,” said Domoto.

He noted that researchers are finding that the La Crosse vines aren’t as vigorous in some areas. However, they are also wondering if there is a herbicide carryover problem that could have caused a lack of vigor.

Domoto spent some time covering the pros and cons of many cultivars, which much of that information he said can be found on the ISU Viticulture Web site.

Nancy and art Calderwood, of Traer, attended the conference to take in as much information as they could for their grape growing business.

“I’m here to pick up new information and talk to people, people that may be having the same problems we are,” said Calderwood.

Calderwood said when they moved back to her family’s farm they decided to get back into farming and to start a vineyard on their small acreage.

The oldest grapes on their farm are now six years old and they sell them to John Ernest Vineyard/Winery in Tama.

Joan O’Brien, executive director of the IWGA, said they figured over 200 people attended the seventh annual conference.

“The sessions have been very informative and we’ve had a great lineup of speakers,” said O’Brien.

For more information on the IWGA, visit their Web site at www.iowawinegrowers.org or contact them at (800) 383-1682.

Contact Kriss Nelson by e-mail at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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