Grape vines growing despite drought

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Kendall Downing

UNION COUNTY, Ill. — Monday's rain was a welcome sight for farmers. Most of the Local 6 area is dealing with moderate to severe drought conditions.

But there's one crop thriving in this weather, so far at least.

"It's not really going to hurt our grapes," said Trent Wright with StarView Vineyards. "Really, grapes are pretty arid-resistant. They do well in dry climates."

Wright said everything this year is a little off, though. Staff usually have treated the grapes by this point in the year.

"You'll start spraying in April, May and continue spraying," he said.

The moisture from springtime rains causes a fungus to form on the plants. This year, there's no need to spray. That's helping out the bottom line.

Wright said the inch or two of rain the grapes got Monday could hold the plants over for another month.

"It made the ground wet. The roots sucked it up and they're doing really well."

But the true test for this year comes around harvest time in late August or early September. A prolonged drought through the summer could cause some plants to wilt.

"We will be harvesting two weeks earlier than most years and that's just because we had an early spring this year," said Wright.

It's too soon to tell what the effect of a summer drought could be but Wright said even a little rain is enough to keep the vines growing.

"They usually take care of themselves," he said.

Local 6 spoke with a number of southern Illinois wineries. They all said they are doing fine now but would like to see a few more inches of rain.

Rain that falls around harvest time would affect the flavor of the grapes.

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