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Heat and Drought Effect Kentucky's Grape Crop

The combination of high heat and inconsistent rainfall is hurting many crops in Kentucky including one of the more recent additions to the state’s agriculture industry. 

There are some 120 grape growers spread out across Kentucky, mostly in the central, northern, and western regions of the commonwealth.  Patsy Wilson is the extension specialist for viticulture at the University of Kentucky.  Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes. Wilson says temperatures above 90 can start to affect photosynthesis which impacts fruit quality

“But this really pertains to leaf temperature and not the ambient temperature, so if we see water with these temperatures, we won’t have as negative affect on the grape vine,” says Wilson.

Wilson says most Kentucky grape growers rely on rainfall and don’t have irrigation systems in place.  She says if growers see consistent long-term drought conditions each growing season, that could change.   The harvest season runs from late July until mid October, depending upon the type of grape.

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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