How to slow the impact of climate change on California’s wine industry

California’s climate has always been extreme. Regularly cool mornings give way to afternoon sizzling during the summer growing season. This is the weather challenge that farmers here have adapted to. But with climate change comes the risk of intensifying long-term extreme events. Things like long droughts, intense heat waves, and more erratic rain patterns in the winter. All of these things will make the future of agriculture less predictable, especially for those who grow wine grapes. Michael Baldinelli and his family have owned Baldinelli Vineyards in Amador County for 50 years. He said he has noticed these changes in weather patterns and that affects how he makes decisions about the next crop. “It’s more about your reaction than preparation. You can’t say ‘Well, we did this last year,'” Baldinelli said. That uncertainty adds a lot of pressure to an already precarious industry. That’s because wine grapes are particularly sensitive to things like temperature. and exposure to sunlight. Both affect the quality of wine produced. Climate change is expected to raise the average temperature in the Sierra foothills by 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit this century. This warming combined with increased drought can burn traditionally grown grapes. Recent research from the University of California at Davis has found that the type of trellis – the structure used to support grape vines – could be a key factor in the success of future grape crops.Cliff Yu was one of the scientists who led the UC Davis study in the Napa region.According to him, The traditional “vertical mode” trellis increases the risk of overheating and sunburn. “Because this trellis system is very open to the environment, it has a greater chance of sunlight penetrating into the canopy and heating the fruits,” Yu said. “The leaves to form a canopy over the fruit.” It can provide great protection. Baldinelli has used this recommended setting by chance for a while. He said he made the switch because this method can also increase the chance of a bigger crop. While Napa trellis types have been tested, the potential benefits can be seen anywhere wine grapes are grown. “Their vineyards can be sustainable for many years to come. We can grow grapes, the same crop, for many, many generations,” Yu said. While this change holds some promise in the long run, the initial cost to farmers could prove very prohibitive. Replacing all of the support columns on a vineyard can cost tens of thousands of dollars for even a relatively small operation and once the change is made, it takes years to train new vineyards to follow the support structure. Either way, the science shows that some adaptation is needed across the California wine industry in order to protect the quality of the region’s wines from the effects of climate change.

California’s climate has always been extreme. Regularly cool mornings give way to afternoon sizzling during the summer growing season. This is the weather challenge that farmers here have adapted to.

But with climate change comes the risk of intensifying long-term extreme events. Things like long droughts, intense heat waves, and more erratic rain patterns in the winter. All of these things will make the future of agriculture less predictable, especially for those who grow wine grapes.

Michael Baldinelli and his family have owned Baldinelli vineyards in Amador County for 50 years. He said he’s noticed these changes in weather patterns affect how he makes decisions about the next crop.

“It’s more about reacting than preparing,” Baldinelli said. “You can’t say ‘Well, we did this last year,'” said Baldinelli.

This uncertainty is adding a lot of pressure to an already risky industry. That’s because wine grapes are particularly sensitive to things like temperature and exposure to sunlight. Both affect the quality of the wine produced.

Climate change is expected to raise the average temperature in the Sierra foothills by 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit this century. This warming, combined with increased drought, can burn grapes grown in traditional ways.

Recent research from the University of California at Davis has found that the type of trellis – the structure used to support the vineyards – could be a key factor in the success of future grape crops.

Cliff Yu was one of the scientists who led the UC Davis study in the Napa area. According to him, the traditional “portrait mode” trellis increases the risk of overheating and sunburn.

“Because this trellis system is so open to the environment, it has a greater chance of sunlight penetrating the canopy and heating the fruits,” Yu said.

The same research found that choosing a different type of trellis, which allows vine leaves to form a canopy over the fruit, can provide significant protection.

Baldinelli by chance has been using this recommended setting for a while. He said he made the switch because this method can also increase the chance of increased crop yields.

Yu said that while trellis types have been tested in Napa, the potential benefits can be seen wherever wine grapes are grown.

“Their vineyards can be sustainable for many years to come. We can grow grapes, the same crop, for many generations,” Yu said.

While this change holds some promise in the long run, the initial cost to farmers can be very high. Replacing all of the support posts on a vineyard can run tens of thousands of dollars for even a relatively small operation and once the change is made, it takes years to train new vineyards to follow the support structure.

Either way, the science shows that some adaptation is needed across the California wine industry in order to protect the region’s wine quality from the effects of climate change.

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