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Climate Change Poses Threat to US Juice Grape Industry

6/30/2014 7:30:31 AM

Concord grapes -- which make up 99 percent of the variety that goes into jelly and juice production -- are being threatened by warming temperatures in eastern Washington, where nearly half the Concord grapes in the United States are grown, according to researcher Markus Keller.

Concord grapes flourish in Washington east of the Cascade Range, but that climate is changing. Summers are getting too warm for these grapes, Keller said, who studies viticulture at Washington State University.

Data from the National Climate Data Center show that central Washington has experienced a warming trend over the last three decades, and scientists expect that trend to continue.

"I think that in 50 years, maybe 40, we will have not much left of our juice grape industry," he said.

Craig Bardwell with the National Grape Co-op in Grandview, Wash., said there's one main issue with summers that are too hot: "Color. And color is a very important part of the juice."

Too much heat causes grapes to remain greener.

Moreover, juice grapes use two to three times the amount of water as wine grapes because of their larger canopy of leaves and heavy irrigation needs.

Concord grapes. (Credit: Flickr/Michelle Carl)

Researchers are now assessing the minimum amount of water needed for the grapes to survive. At the same time, too little water threatens the ability of vines to produce sufficient grapes.

"People talk about the wine all the time and forget that Concord is our most widely planted variety, still," Keller said. He added that's why it's crucial to unveil a solution before its gets too hot (Northwest Public Radio/Oregon Public Broadcasting, June 20).

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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