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VINIFERA GRAPES IN NEW YORK *
R. D. ANTHONY
UNDER DIRECTION OF
U. P. HEDRICK.
For two hundred years the colonists and early horticulturists tried in vain to grow the European grape, Vitis vinifera, in eastern America. Every attempt resulted in failure until finally the conviction became thoroly established that this grape could not be grown in this region. The end of these attempts was hastened by the discovery of satisfactory native sorts such as Isabella and Catawba.
In the meantime very different results were being secured on the Pacific coast where, in southern and central California, the Vinifera grapes found congenial conditions.
In the century which has passed since the last serious attempt to grow these grapes in the east, we have learned that there were four chief causes for these failures: (1) the downy and powdery mildews, (2) black-rot, (3) a root-sucking louse called the phylloxera and (4) winter injury. Satisfactory means of control have been found for all these troubles.
Experimental culture of the European grape was undertaken at this Station in 1902 when cuttings or plants of 19 varieties were received. In 1911 cuttings of more than 70 varieties were received and grafted upon a miscellaneous collection of Station seedlings ranging from 6 to 10 years old. The results were very satisfactory, most of the plants fruiting in 1913
By giving the vines winter protection and the usual grape sprays they have been kept in a healthy condition.
As a result of the work at Geneva certain cultural recommendations can be made for New York. One of the most serious difficulties
* Reprint of Bulletin No. 432, April, 1917.
is to secure plants of the desired kinds. Few can be had from eastern nurseries and not a great number from those in California and then not always on resistant roots. For this reason it will frequently be desirable for the eastern grower to know how to graft cuttings on phylloxera-resistant roots such as Vitis riparia. This can be done in the nursery row or in the vineyard.
In planting Viniferas less space need be given the vines than with native sorts. Rows six feet apart and plants six feet in the row is a satisfactory distance. Care should be taken that grafted vines do not form roots from the cion.
In the east it is probably best to support the vines with the regular two-wire trellis.
Because of the necessity of bending the trunk to the ground for winter protection, a replacing spur should be left at the base of the trunk to use in forming a new trunk when the old one becomes too stiff. The main trunk should be carried to the lower wire and two fruit canes and two renewal spurs provided for. The young shoots which spring from these canes and spurs grow upright to the second wire when they are pinched off and tied. This gives stockier and more mature canes for the following season.
Cheap winter protection is secured by bending the vines to the ground and covering with a few inches of dirt.
The chief value of the Vinifera grape at present in this State is as a home-garden grape for the amateur, for the commercial grower supplying local markets demanding high quality, and for the plant-breeder seeking to improve the quality of our present varieties.
Most of the Vinifera varieties have originated in regions with
longer season and a much warmer climate than that of New York and many kinds included in the test at Geneva have been discarded because, even in the most favorable seasons, they have not reached maturity.
The varieties are discussed in four groups: (1) Desirable varieties for the grape regions of the State for (a) the table and (b) wine; (2) sorts worthy of testing in the more favorable parts of the State for (a) table and (b) wine; (3) kinds still on probation; (4) varieties of little or no value in the State.
EARLY ATTEMPTS TO GROW VINIFERAS IN THE
The story of the early attempts to introduce the European grape, Vitis vinifera, is one of the most interesting chapters in the history of fruit-growing in America -- a story which has already been told so well and so often that it is unnecessary here to do more than sketch the main events. In all the accounts left by the early explorers of our Atlantic coast is expressed their surprise at the abundance of grapes growing wild in the woods and thickets. The first colonists were not slow in pressing these into wine for, to them, the vine meant not the table delicacy that it is to us but the sparkling juice which, in those days, seemed so much a necessity of life.
In spite of the many optimistic reports which these early winepressers sent back to the Old World, it was soon evident that these wild grapes lacked that clear, vinous flavor so necessary to a good wine grape. For this reason when vineyards came to be planted, cuttings or seeds were sent from France and Germany. For nearly two hundred years the history of these plantations of European sorts is one long series of failures and discouragements. Even in the hands of the most expert vineyardists sent to this country at great expense, the vines soon sickened and died under the adverse conditions of the new country.
One of the last extensive attempts to grow the Vinifera grape in the eastern states was made in Kentucky and Indiana in the early days of the Nineteenth Century by a company of Swiss vineyardists. Many of the best European sorts were introduced but all failed save one, the Cape Grape or Alexander, and all the evidence would indicate that this was a native grape placed in the vineyard by accident.
At about the same time two events took place which changed the whole nature of grape-growing in America -- the Isabella grape was discovered in South Carolina and the Catawba in Maryland. Both of these are native grapes and their success marked the end of the first chapter of the story of the Vinifera grape in the east. Since then for nearly seventy-five years, European sorts have been grown only in a limited way by amateurs and then chiefly under glass. During this time the belief that Viniferas could not be grown successfully out of doors in the east became widespread.