By Alice Bilyk, UCSB Intern

This spring, on the 12th of April, a hard freeze came through and decimated almost all of the new green growth that was peeking out on the grapevines. We had unseasonably early growth on the grapevines due to a warm winter with hardly any rainfall. Thus the early morning April freeze caused the most damage a spring freeze has ever dealt to Condor’s Hope. Steve, Robbie, and I watched the new growth wither before our eyes that morning, and while devastating, this was a unique opportunity to document how the vineyard would recover, and what effect the freeze would have on the harvest. This field study became the main focus of my internship at Condor’s Hope, and hopefully will provide insight into how climate change, with combinations of extremes such as droughts and freezes, could potentially impact agriculture all over the world.

Over two months, we watched the grapevines develop again, and I recorded how and where on selected plants new growth returned. Over the course of the study, plants that were heavily frosted showed delayed and less growth, as compared to plants that were not affected, in addition to significantly lower fruit production. Some varieties will not have enough fruit to make wine this year.

However, despite the amount of damage incurred, the grapevines have shown incredible resilience and recovery. Varieties that were heavily impacted, and even had whole plants die, eventually recovered and even showed some minimal fruit production. In the long run, though, this freeze may impact fruit production for the next few years. Not to mention, continuing climate change makes it more likely that such situations will happen again, and more damage will be wrought on top of the damage already done. In light of such considerations, this study may help prepare and anticipate the result of future similar situations.

I’ve formatted my full-length article and data into a booklet that you can view below. Be sure to click on the ‘full screen’ image in the center of the booklet for easy reading.