UPDATE: The sweet side to the drought for grape growers - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: The sweet side to the drought for grape growers


Grapes naturally weather the dry conditions better than other crops, but even they can't escape the effects of  this year's drought.

The stress is not as evident on grape vines, but it's there.

"I don't have as much foliage growth, definitely," said Barry Dittmer, who owns Tucker Hill Vineyards in Hinton, Iowa.

Less leaves, leaves grapes vulnerable to the sun's rays. 

"The grapes themselves are going to start to shrivel up, raisin out," he explained.

Dittmer's berries haven't burned yet, but he's keeping a close eye.

"If I harvest in the next couple weeks, it'll be two weeks early," said Dittmer.

Irrigation isn't an option.  Whether these crops get a drink is all up to mother nature.

"I'd take a shower every week, like the corn and bean guys," he said.

The sweet side of this drought is that although the grapes are a lot smaller this year, that should actually make the wine more flavorful.

"I'm really thinking this could one of those so called vintage years," he explained.

Grapes are hearty with their roots reaching deep to draw in moisture.

"They'll have about 60% of their roots in the top two feet of the soil and then 40% are further down," said Dittmer.

In the decade Dittmer's been growing grapes, he's never experienced a drought this bad, and he can already tell his yield will be slightly lower.

"Right now, I'm probably looking at two-thirds," he said.

This is actually round two.  The late frost in April didn't do the Dittmers any favors.  From cold to heat, and now birds, thirsty for a treat, which they're fighting with fences.

"You never know what's going to happen in the next two weeks."

To protect their plants, grape growers are dropping fruit off to conserve the little energy that's left,  allowing a partial crop to ripen instead.

Dittmer says he'll decide this week whether he'll need to do the same.

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