In April, temperatures dropped below -2 in Wiltshire and Britain as a whole, leading to the lowest average minimum temperatures for April since 1922, Vineyards across the country faced the very real prospect of losing a lot – if not all – of their crop.
Read on to learn about how we protected our vines at Whitehall Vineyard from the harsh temperatures this year.
Whilst dormant buds are able to survive colder weather conditions as low as -20 degrees, newly emerging buds are particularly at risk from frost when temperatures start to drop. At the start of April, temperatures dropped to -2.8 degrees which put our newly emerging crop at risk as we faced the very tangible possibility of losing our 2022 harvest.
One way to protect emerging buds – and a common practice for Vineyards both in the UK and in France – is to light Crop Candles to raise the temperature of the Vineyard and deter the settling frost.
On the morning of April 9th, we set out at 2 am to light the fires throughout the Vineyard and were gradually able to raise temperatures for our emerging crop.
Whilst this will improve conditions for buds as the fires are burning it requires constant maintenance as, if weather conditions worsen again the following evening, the fires have to be lit again to continue to keep the temperature above -2.
In total this April Whitehall Vineyard had 19 nights of ‘Frost Watch’ where we manually lit over 1,500 Crop Candles each morning.
In addition to keeping temperatures stable, another way to prevent frost in Vineyards is to use fans or wind machines to keep the air moving amongst the crop, preventing the frost from settling and keeping warmer air moving around the vines.
At Whitehall Vineyard, we use a Tow and Blow which captures warmer air rising from the soil – generated by our fires – and blows this air back into the Vineyard to ensure the ground temperatures don’t get cold enough for frost to form.
Every night as we lit the fires, we also had the Tow and Blow running on full blast to keep the warm air circulating around the Vineyard.
Alongside the use of Crop Candles & Wind Machines, it is common for Vineyard’s to also use sprinklers – to keep temperatures above freezing – or in some instances, Helicopters are used to contribute to the circulation of warmer air amongst the growing crop.
After 19 long, cold nights of lighting the fires and setting up the Tow and Blow we were able to successfully protect all of our emerging buds that now continue to grow, ready to be harvested in 2022!
To follow our Frost journey on Instagram, follow Whitehall Vineyard here.
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