October 2022 - 14
Greg Lang believes the use of high tunnels for winegrape production in southwest
Michigan are a good investment for growers who meet the right criteria, primarily
whether they have a market for such product.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 13
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well. We lost just one or two (vines). "
Both inside and outside, the Merlots
survived 100%. Of the five trialed
varieties, Merlot seems to be the most
cold-hardy. Cabernet is second-best.
" We've got about 80-90% of those still
alive and those we lost came from the
virus they apparently came from the
nursery with, " Lang said.
Malbec had less than 10% alive
outside the tunnel, but inside, 83% were
The Syrah had only less than 10%
survive outside the tunnel, all due to
winter injury that first year.
" Inside the tunnel, two-thirds of them
are alive, " Lang said. " The ones we lost
were a little bit due to winter, but also
due to the virus. "
With the Teroldego, which comes
from northern Italy, and should be
cold-hardy, " apparently all of those
vines came with crown gall, and that's
been killing them ever since. We only
have about 50% of those alive inside
and outside. "
Researchers harvested for the first
time in 2020 from inside the tunnel.
" The vines were so weak outside they
weren't big enough to have any harvest, "
Lang said. " In 2021, we harvested inside
and outside. So being the second harvest
inside last year, it was the first harvest
outside, and much smaller. "
Only inside grapes were harvested in
2020. The Cabernet yielded about 3.7
tons per acre.
" It was a very good yield on the third
leaf, " he said.
Researchers are interested in yields, brix
and titratable acidities for wine quality.
" That year (2020), we had about 22
degrees brix, a little bit low compared
to out West, but I was pleased we had
achieved that, " Lang said. " The acidity
was quite high that year. That was for
The Cabernet grapes fully ripened
in the tunnel that year. Lang said
conventional wisdom is that long-season
grapes for hardy red wines aren't a fit for
Michigan weather over the winter, but
with the tunnel, it appears the necessary
heat units can be attained.
In 2021, for the fourth year outside,
one ton per acre was harvested.
Inside the tunnels, vines produced 6-7
tons per acre, with two different harvests
on the north end and south end (of the
vineyard), about two weeks apart. Those
6-7 tons are high yields for Cabernet,
and brix were about the same again,
about 21 degrees.
" One of the questions going into this
year is, if we thin the crop load on some
of the vines, can we get those sugars up
to 34-25 brix? " Lang said.
The 2020 Merlot crop again had 3-4
tons per acre, similar to the Cabernet,
with 23 degrees brix. Last year, the
unprotected Merlot produced less than
a ton per acre, compared to eight tons
per acre under the tunnel. Brix dropped
because of the high production, at
around 22 brix.
At a presentation at the 2022 Viticulture
Field Day at Michigan State University's
(MSU) Southwest Michigan Research Field
Day, Greg Lang, MSU tree fruit specialist,
discussed a project that examines the
potential for high tunnel warm season
winegrape cultivar plantings.
" Last year, our acidity across the
board was much lower, " Lang said. " I'm
thinking maybe because of warmer
nights, at those higher temperatures we
were losing some of those acids, perhaps. "
The Syrah in the tunnel in 2020
produced two tons per acre. Last year
it was eight tons per acre, with Brix
The Malbec crop was almost 4 tons
per acre for the first yield, six tons per
acre last year.
" Brix were 22-23, so we're really close
to what we would probably like to target. "
The Teroldego had two tons per acre
for the first harvest, and " very good brix
at 26, with good acidity, " Lang said.
" This past year (the Teroldego)
suffered spring frost damage, " he
said. " The primary flower buds were
damaged so we cropped on secondary
buds. The yield actually fell the second
year from 2 tons down to 1.5 tons last
year. They were the only variety in
which we saw that spring damage. In the
Teroldego you get really good brix, so
they do tend to ripen earlier. " FGN
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