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Industry concerns, trends discussed at monthly grape fieldman's breakfast

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John Cullen of Simplot (left) shares information at Thursday's grape fieldman's breakfast. Also in the photo is grape grower Joan Johnson.

PROSSER - A potentially new pest to grapes of concern to the region's grape growers was to be discussed at Thursday morning's monthly grape fieldman's breakfast, but guest speaker Gwen Hoheisel was not present to provide information to those gathered.

Instead, Andy Schilperoort provided some insight to the growing concerns regarding the Cherry Vinegar Fly during round table discussions that took place in the guest speaker's absence.

He has attended meetings among leaders in various fruit industries in Washington state and has learned the Cherry Fruit Fly is a pest to be taken seriously.

"It has about as many as 10 generations during the growing season," said Schilperoort, adding the female is capable of cutting holes in fruits nearing harvest.

The female Cherry Fruit Fly lays her eggs inside the fruit, and Schilperoort said California and other states have already experienced the devastating effects of the pest.

"I think it will be a very significant concern here," said Schilperoort.

Those gathered for the breakfast continued to share trends in the grape industry following the insight provided by Schilperoort.

Jerry Czebotar, a grape grower in the Columbia Basin, shared the outlook for Concord grape growers looks promising.

"Welch's has placed its focus back on the 64-oz. purple Concord (bottle)," he shared, stating Concord grape growers can expect to see better returns on their investment.

Czebotar said the evidence of Welch's renewed focus on the mainstay crop can be seen in advertising campaigns.

"The future of the Concord industry I believe is in Washington state," he shared, stating he feels it is good to see the company best known for its grape products turn away from diversions such as fruit products the company is not as well known for.

Washington State University Extension Services researcher Joan Davenport also had a few words to add to the discussion regarding Concord grapes.

She shared she and researchers from California recently submitted a proposal for the study on the effects of salinity on vines.

"I asked if we could add Concords and they were receptive to the idea," said Davenport, explaining the Washington grape industry is not affected by severe changes in the environment as much as other states and countries. However, she felt it would be helpful to know the effects of high sodium levels on vines especially in the interest of water conservation and drought situations.

Because it is winter and the growers are concerned with climate effects on vineyards, some growers like Joan Johnson shared their opinions on pruning.

She and the other growers gathered have not yet begun the pruning process in preparation for spring, and Johnson said she advises all small crop growers to wait until the middle of February.

"We seem to experience extreme cold weather at the end of January, the beginning of February. I don't know what the damage, if any, has been to my grapes as a result of the freezing temperatures already experienced, but will find out when I begin to prune next month," she said.

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