In recent years, a crop that has gained interest among producers is grapes – grown for food, juice, and wine. Patrick Byers is the regional horticulture specialist for the University of Missouri Extension in Greene County. He’s been working in fruit horticulture for 22 years. According to Patrick, “If you want to start growing grapes on your farm, the first thing to do is carefully decide where to grow the grapes.” Patrick suggested growing grapes closer to the house and not in a low lying area because the soil needs to be well drained.
Then one needs to purchase root cuttings. “There are nurseries that can deliver mail-order vines, which is an excellent way to have vines delivered to your home,” added Patrick.
The next step is to decide which grapes to grow. There are two groups of grapes that grow well in the four state region. Patrick noted, “American grape varieties such as Concord, Sunbelt, Catawba and Norton are typical juice or wine grapes. French American hybrids like Chambourcin, Chardonel, Vidal, Seyval Blanc and Cayuga White are the grape varieties grown primarily for wine.” One would need about 90 pounds of fresh grapes to yield 5 gallons of wine, which would probably be about 8-10 vines.
“Next think about the growing trellis,” said Patrick. A basic trellis is built using 8 foot steel T-posts and wire – 14 1/2 gauge is typical. There should be a T-post every eight feet with strong anchors at the ends. Each vine will need its own T-post to climb. Between each post should be two wires – one six feet and one three feet from the ground.
Plant the vines in early spring (March or April) and begin training them up the post. Patrick said, “Gently use strips of cloth or plant tape to make sure that the vine is growing up the T-post that first year.” Once it reaches the upper wire, pinch off the top of the growing point and in response the plant will send out two shoots – one on each side – and then those shoots must be trained. The first two years consist of growing and training the vine. On the third year it begins growing fruit. Fruit should be removed the second year because the goal then is to develop a strong plant that takes up the space provided. Patrick commented, “During the third year balanced pruning begins. You’re focused on a grape harvest this year but you also need a strong vine for following years.”
Another need is an irrigation system. “A drip line water hose irrigation system is best and can be attached to the 3 foot wire,” remarked Patrick. If there’s not a good rain, water twice a week for a very deep watering. Weeds must be controlled and for a successful growing there needs to be some sort of disease management. The grape harvest is August through September.


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