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Sunday, April 1, 2007

Early budbreak

The buds are already breaking in my test vineyard. It's a full two weeks earlier than last year. The budbreak has been creeping up over the last six years in my little lab vineyard: a day here, a day there depending on variety. But this is two weeks. And it's not just my vines: commercial growers all over the region have been reporting similar circumstances. In Arkansas, shoots are already six inches. In St. James, Missouri, two.

The budbreak also seems less even, with some buds breaking and others barely beginning to swell.

A global warming pattern is undeniable, and all growers I know embrace it as a fact. They see evidence every year when they record the activity of their vines. But two weeks is a huge jump. And this makes growers extremely worried. In our region, we can get a frost as late as May 1. Buds normally break mid-April giving wine growers two weeks of frost-worry. But this year it's an entire month. It's as if the vines are playing an April Fools Day trick. Vineyard managers aren't laughing, though.

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