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Extreme cold hurting vineyards

Geneva, N.Y. -- The extreme cold this winter is taking its toll on the wine industry.

Damage is already being found in vineyards throughout New York state.

Scientists from Cornell University estimate 50 percent of buds across the state have been damaged.

At Three Brothers Vineyard and Winery on Seneca Lake, co-owner Dave Mansfield said theyve lost nearly 90 percent of their crop.

For the next harvest, we know we've lost our Merlot and our Cabernet and our Chardonnay," Mansfield said. "Our Rieslings are hanging in there."

Across the lake at Fox Run Vineyards, bud damage is also being found.

We're seeing, in some of our varieties, over 50 percent bud damage, said Fox Run Vineyards owner Scott Osborne. At the least, we've lost 30 percent, which is very, very severe for us.

The cold weather has changed how some vineyards are caring for their vines.

At Ventosa Vineyards on Seneca Lake, winemaker and vineyard manager Jenna LaVita said she is pruning her rows differently, leaving more shoots on the vines because shes not sure what buds will bloom come spring.

While losing buds will hurt this years crop, the biggest worry among vineyard owners is vine or trunk damage.

If it gets really cold, the water that's actually inside the trunk will start to freeze and brown and you can have splitting in your trunk, and that's when you would really start to worry, said LaVita.

If that happens, the vine dies and will force vineyards to replant.

If I lose my vines and then it has to get ripped out and replanted, that's a million dollars a year, just for five years, just to make up in juice loss, said Mansfield.

This is why Sen. Chuck Schumer asked the USDA to be ready to provide relief to reimburse grape growers through the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), which is part of the recently passed Farm Bill.

A vineyard that loses more than 15 percent of its vines can get reimbursed through TAP. That money may be crucial as the full extent of the damage crops up.

(TAP) will help greatly (important), especially if we have vine damage itself not only to buds if we get trunk splitting, where the trunks actually split because of the cold," Osborne said. "What happens is the moisture freezes and then it will actually split the trunk. I think we have a lot of that this TAP program will be very, very important.

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Washington Times