Research examines grape hardiness

A five-year research project at the Summerland Research and Development Centre is examining how grapes can survive cold winters.

Carl Bogdanoff

Carl Bogdanoff

A five-year research project at the Summerland Research and Development Centre is examining how grapes can survive cold winter temperatures.

Carl Bogdanoff, a viticulture biologist at the Agriculture and Agri-food Canada facility, said the research is needed as cold temperatures can damage grape vines.

“It takes just one cold day — any day during the winter — that can severely impact and damage the wine industry,” he said.

While this past winter was mild, the winter of 2008 to 2009 was cold, with temperatures dropping to -23.

The winter of 1996 also had temperatures colder than normal.

The coldest winter temperature on record in Summerland is -30.

While British Columbia has a thriving wine industry, the temperatures can reach the lower limit for grape vines, Bogdanoff said.

“We’re pushing the northern boundary of where you can easily grow grapes,” he said.

During the coldest part of the winter, from December to February, temperatures below -25 are extremely dangerous to grape crops, he said. In March and April, as the plants are coming out of dormancy, cold weather can also damage the plants, even if the temperatures do not reach -25.

During cold periods with no wind, the temperature can vary by up to 10 degrees from one vineyard to another.

“When the wind stops, there’s a huge variability in temperature,” Bogdanoff said.

To cope with cold temperatures, some vineyards will use wind machines in winter, to stir the cold air which would settle in low-lying areas.

Through his research, Bogdanoff hopes to enhance hardiness of grape plants.

The five-year study is in its third year.