Frost damages plenty of fruit crops in MO, IL
By Adam Allington, KWMU / IL Public Radio / AP
St. Louis, MO – Record low temperatures blanketed Missouri over the weekend, and the prolonged frost means the state's multi-million dollar grape crop could be a wash.
Extensive damage has already been reported on crops of winter wheat, apples, peaches, and now grapes.
"On my particular vineyard, [Saturday] night the temperature hit 20 and we lost everything," said Tim Puchta, the owner of Puchta Winery in Hermann, Mo. "We lost our entire hillside of Norton and Vignole."
Puchta says weekend temperatures were so cold grape vines could experience trunk damage which would affect harvests for several years.
Missouri vineyards produce 6,000 tons of fruit and over 5 million bottles of wine annually. Early indications are projecting a crop loss of 80-90%.
After a vine sprouts a bud that becomes damaged, owners say it will still produce a second bud. However, it won't produce as many grapes. Mike Boegler, a grape grower from Ava, says this forces wineries to buy grapes other states.
Boegler says the damage won't be permanent on his vines, but it will hurt this year's yield.
A spokesperson for Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass, Ill. says they will be forced to buy from others in order to make wine and that could cause the cost of a bottle to increase by a few dollars.
But some winemakers are looking for the good from the weather. Some along Route 94 in St. Charles County say the thinner second crop often produces superior grapes with more concentrated flavors. So while the quantity may not be as great, the quality could be better.
But there is no hidden blessing for some other fruit growers. At Centennial Farms in Augusta, owners Bob and Ellen Knoernschild say they haven't seen damage this severe in 40 years. They fear much of their apple, peach, grape and blackberry crops will be lost.