Protecting European Grape Vines from Cold Weather Damage in New England

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2020: $13,698.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Black Birch Vineyard
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
ian modestow
Black Birch Vineyard


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: low tunnels, Protective winter coverings
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: prevention

    Proposal summary:

    Our objective is to test treatments that can provide cost-effective cold protection for grape production, and enhance winter survival of cold-sensitive V. vinifera grapes in cold-climate states of the northeast. We will study the effectiveness of relatively low-cost physical tenting and low-hoop systems, using both greenhouse plastic and geotextile fabrics to protect vines in test, and compare the results to use of a standard small high tunnel system which has been previously tested for use with grape production in other parts of the US. We will also test the effectiveness of a food-safe coating that has been shown to be effective in inducing cold tolerance in apple and grapes in limited trials. We will compare these treatments to appropriate control vines, and to vines that we bury in the winter as is done in some vineyards in Canada (with mixed results). We will ventilate the protected systems through much of the year, but keep vines under cover during cold weather extremes and spring frosts. Temperature, humidity, soil moisture content, winter bud survival, ventilation frequency, vine death/necrosis, disease/pest ratings, spray treatments required, veraison, harvest yield and sugar (brix) will be assessed as a measure of treatment success. A cost analysis comparing treatment types to yield and harvest quality will be conducted. Our results will be shared with the agricultural community in cooperation with University Faculty/Extension personnel, and an Open House/Tours will be given to help disseminate both successes and failures of our study to other vineyard owners and managers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to increase the winter survival of cold-sensitive grape varieties in New England through the use of lower-cost cold protection systems that have not been tested in the northeast under extreme cold conditions. In addition to the testing of the physical tenting and modified low-hoop systems, we will combine some covered protection systems with treatments to induce cold-hardiness in the vines. Our covered systems will be compared to untreated vines, vines that are buried in the winter months, with vines protected by a small high hoop system as a reference treatment. Our objective is to provide data that will allow determination of the best systems to provide cost-effective cold protection for grape production in cold climate states.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.