Fruit Crops for Mississippi Farmers’ Markets

Yesterday I gave a presentation on “Best Fruit Crops for Mississippi Farmers’ Markets”.  It was part of the “Microfarming – Growing for Farmers’ Markets” workshop put on by Dr. Rick Snyder and others.  You can see more info on the workshop as well as links to other information related to Farmers’ Markets here:

My presentation from the Farmers' Market Workshop

My presentation from the Farmers’ Market Workshop

The full presentation can be accessed here as a PDF file: Fruit Crops for MS Farmers Markets


Magnesium Deficiency in the Vineyard

Nutrient deficiencies can adversely affect grapevines, not only the growth of the vine itself, but also the fruit.  Here in Poplarville, the soil pH is low.  To give you an idea, in general this area is good for growing blueberries.  Blueberries thrive in soil pH of 4.2-5.2, which is too low for most grapevines.  Often in other regions I have seen Iron (Fe) deficiency but here, because of the low soil pH, I am seeing Magnesium (Mg) deficiency show up.  The photo below shows what late season leaf symptoms look like.  I don’t remember which vine this came from — some cultivars appear to tolerate the soil pH better than others.

Mg deficiency caused by low soil pH

Mg deficiency caused by low soil pH

So, what to do about it?  Raise the soil pH with lime is the first thing.  If that doesn’t alleviate the problem, then foliar or soil applied sprays may be necessary.  My colleague at Cornell University, Hans Walter-Peterson, gives an excellent primer on Mg deficiency and offers suggestions for correcting it.  You can find that here:  The eXtension grape community of practice has a good article on other potential disorders too — that article can be accessed here:

You may be inclined to think, “It is after harvest, so I shouldn’t worry about it”.  Nutrient deficiencies can lead to poor winter hardiness, overall vine stress, and other issues.  It is best to correct the problem rather than to let it negatively affect the vine.

See the Heat on Grape Bunches with IR Thermography

Recently I purchased a VT02 Visual IR Thermometer for use on grapes and grapevines.  This instrument has been used in various studies, mainly those addressing irrigation scheduling, stomatal conductance, and other water-related issues.  I have used a similar instrument previously in Oklahoma and blogged about it here:

Yesterday, I went to the vineyard and looked at some of the few bunches left on vines that bird had not carried off or destroyed.  I took IR readings on two different cultivars, ‘Lake Emerald’ and ‘Rubaiyat’.  ‘Lake Emerald’ is a white-skinned grape.  It was released by the University of Florida in 1954 and resulted from a cross of ‘Pixiola’ and ‘Golden Muscat’.  This is the first year it has produced fruit (2nd leaf) and the clusters have not fully ripened yet, but is getting close.  You can read more about ‘Lake Emerald’ here:   ‘Rubaiyat’  is a cross of ‘Bailey’ and Seibel 5437.  It has red skin and red flesh.  It was released by Oklahoma State University in the 1970s.   You can read more about ‘Rubaiyat’ here:

Below are the images I took of the clusters during mid-day.  Ambient air temperature was around 35 C.  As you can see, cluster temperature was greater than air temperature.

IR Image of Lake Emerald Cluster

IR Image of Lake Emerald Cluster

IR Image of Rubaiyat Cluster

IR Image of Rubaiyat Cluster

The temperature difference is nominal, just 0.7 C higher for Rubaiyat (the red grape).  Rubaiyat was also ripe, or past ripe.  The “cooler” tones around the bunch are leaves and air (or other objects).  I still need to work with the instrument to optimize its use.  While outside I also looked at leaves that had problems (disease, nutrient deficiency, etc.) vs. normal, healthy leaves.  The problem leaves invariably had slightly higher temperatures.  I attribute this to reduced transpiration from damage to the leaves.  I also tested some blueberry plants.  I saw some differences in canopy temperature among cultivars, but not sure what to attribute it to — could be water stress, leaf age, or some other factor.


Some Notes on Bunch Grapes in South Mississippi

I have a vineyard in Poplarville, MS with several different varieties of bunch grapes.  Some will make it, some won’t, but it is interesting to look nonetheless.  Below are some notes I made today on their growth and development.  These are all in their second leaf and first fruiting year.

Victoria Red — some Pierce’s Disease symptoms (PD), not extremely productive, clusters variable in size and shape, some vines no crop while others better, bird depredation and bees a problem, fruit is crisp and sweet with good flavor (close to neutral), some seeds, vines have good vigor, non-slipskin

Cimarron — very few clusters, small cluster size, slipskin with “Welchy” flavor, some PD symptoms, moderate vine vigor

Sunset — no crop, possible PD symptoms, low vigor

Cynthiana — moderate vigor, no fruit

Rubaiyat — possible PD symptoms, vine vigor varies among vines, some vines no fruit and some lots, slipskin, red flesh, flavor mild to neutral, good sized clusters when present, some vines appear stressed, some uneven ripening, some nutritional deficiency symptoms, bird and bee depredation

Lake Emerald — good fruit set, not ripening yet, evidence of nutritional deficiency, clusters loose, vine vigor good to moderate

Daytona — no fruit, vine vigor low to moderate

Champanel — few clusters, slipskin, mild fruit flavor, cluster size medium to large, “slimy” pulp, some nutritional deficiency symptoms, possible PD symptoms, vine vigor moderate, clusters loose

V12-375(?) — little fruit, vigorous growth, not ripening yet, clean foliage except a couple older leaves with possible PD or nutrient deficiency symptoms

Conquistador — no fruit, vine vigorous, shows nutrient deficiency, some leaves drying out and dying

Himrod — poor growth, no fruit

FAMU 99 — moderate vine vigor, no fruit

MidSouth — low to moderate vine vigor, little fruit, small clusters, intriguing “raspberry” flavor, slipskin

The varieties below have been harvested as of July 24.  Although they were not at optimal soluble solid levels, bird depredation dictated an early harvest so that my study would not be ruined.

Villard blanc — long, loose clusters, brix around 16, some leave damage from Pristine, nonslipskin, obvious “wine”-like grape flavor, vines moderate vigor

Blanc du bois — vines vigorous, large to medium cluster size, brix around 17-18, anthracnose a problem, slipskin

Miss blanc — less vigorous than VB and BdB, less fruit too, brix around 15

If you have questions or comments on these I would love to hear them.

‘Victoria Red’ Grape in South Mississippi

Last year I planted some ‘Victoria Red’ in Poplarville, MS.  They are not part of a study, but rather for observation — what kind of diseases will show up, how much to they produce, and will they survive?  So far, things have worked out okay.  Right now they are rolling on toward harvest.  This is the first year they are being fruited, so I don’t want to jump to too many conclusions yet.  At this point, I see some variability in cluster size.  I also see symptoms of Pierce’s Disease.  Whether or not these symptoms will lead to the demise of the vine is to be determined.  Below are a few photos that I took a couple weeks ago, as the clusters were starting veraison.

Victoria Red cluster starting veraison.  This cluster is more compact than some others.

Victoria Red cluster starting veraison. This cluster is more compact than some others.

Another Victoria Red cluster.  This one is longer and less compact.

Another Victoria Red cluster. This one is longer and less compact.

Symptoms of Pierce's Disease on Victoria Red

Symptoms of Pierce’s Disease on Victoria Red

Next year will really be interesting on these vines.  I only have fewer than a dozen, but they should yield some nice fruit (I hope).  If you are interested you can find more information on Victoria Red at this link:

Getting vines is difficult.  I see that Double A Vineyards advertises them but is out of stock.  Your best bet may be to get some from a nursery in Texas (where the cultivar was tested and released from).  I will continue to update the progress of this promising cultivar.



Scale Insect on Grapevines

Earlier this Spring I noticed some scale insects on my Victoria Red grapevines.  It was on only 3 of 12 vines.  I suspect they came in on the shipment of vines from Texas, but can’t be sure of it.  I am no scale identification expert, but to my eye they look like Grape-Cottony Maple Scale (see image below).

Scale on grapevine shoot

Scale on grapevine cane

Grape-Cottony Maple Scale (Pulvinaria vitis), overwinters as a small, brown scale on grape canes.  The “cottony” part is an egg sac that comes out in the Spring.  The scale can reduce the vigor of the vine as it feeds.  They may also carry and transmit viruses.  What to do about them?  Well, they can be pruned out (which is what I did) or sprayed with a horticultural oil during the dormant season or with approved insecticides.

Scale infestation on grapevine cordon

Scale infestation on grapevine cordon

The vines I had were severely infested with these scale insects, so I decided to cut off the infested parts.  In one case I took out the entire vine.  In the other two I cut it back close to the graft union.  It was not the most desirable thing to do, but these were observational plants and I had 9 more plants to look at.  I was really concerned that they would get into my experimental vines and didn’t want that to happen.

The Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook has a great description of this insect ( for more information.

Why the Fear of Unknown Wines?

Later this year I will be headed to Oklahoma to do some consulting for the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council.  The idea is to help growers improve production and quality in the vineyard.  Since I spent 6 years there I have knowledge of the diverse eco-regions within the state and some of the challenges that growers face.  Something that I heard while there and after is that consumers don’t want/won’t try wines they aren’t familiar with.  This means that the winery believes they need a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, etc. to be successful.  While I don’t dispute that wine consumers are narrowly focused, I also don’t buy into the idea that they won’t try or buy anything else.  I look to Minnesota and Missouri, which have thriving wine industries, without any or very little Vitis vinifera grapes being grown.  There are some states that cannot grow these grapes for one reason or another (too cold, disease, etc.).  Many states can grow them, but sometimes I question why.  Does the world need another mediocre/decent/good Cabernet Sauvignon?  I don’t pretend to know the answer to that and can only speak for myself — almost without fail I can find a superior bottle of wine at the store for far cheaper than the winery.  Now, I don’t want to diminish the wineries doing it — they produce a local product that helps the agricultural and tourist economies of the state.  Good for them and good for us.  But some places just shouldn’t be growing certain kinds of grapes when others produce a better product.  Since I work with the grape and wine industry I like to taste different wines to get a perspective on them.  I know I am in the minority, but I would choose a hybrid wine over almost any vinifera wine any day of the week.  Why?  To me vinifera wine is about nuance, the parameters of what the wine can offer is limited in scope.  If one buys 5 bottles of Cab from 5 different wineries in 5 different countries, do they taste the same?  No, but they are all familiar.  I like to seek out unfamiliar wines that challenge me.  Hybrid wines do that for me.  I have had some outstanding hybrid wines.  There are hybrid varieties that can produce excellent wines — Traminette, Chardonel, Frontenac gris, Norton, Chambourcin, Noiret, etc.  I like these wines.  Even a mediocre bottle of these wines has something to offer.  As Americans we like familiarity — every McDonald’s in the U.S. has the same food.  We expect that, we are comforted by that fact.  But, that doesn’t make it good.  I believe hybrid and vinifera wines can co-exist.  The problem is not in the vineyard or the winemaking — it is in the marketing and consumer education.  Until wineries and consumers branch out into the unknown, hybrid wines will be looked upon as inferior.  Unfortunately, that is a fallacy.

Fruit Crops for North Mississippi

Last week I was in Verona and gave a talk on Fruit Crops for North Mississippi at the Northern Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association annual conference.  The weather was cold, but the crowd inside was good.  Lots of interest and excitement about all kinds of fruit and vegetable related topics.  Below is a photo of Dr. Blake Layton, MSU Extension Entomologist, addressing the crowd.

Dr. Layton at the NMSFVGA meeting in Verona

Dr. Layton at the NMSFVGA meeting in Verona

Although I didn’t get a photo with me speaking (should I have done a selfie?) my presentation is available for download at the link below as a PDF.

Fruit Crops for Northern MS 2014

UPDATE:  After posting this I was chastised by Dr. John Clark at the University of Arkansas for not listing the UA peach and nectarine varieties.  My reply was that they were untested in N. MS so I didn’t know for sure how they would perform.  He thought they would do well in that area.  So, this link: will describe them and offer nurseries where to obtain them.