Plastic tarps effectively protected crimson seedless grapes from the rain. White plastic is tied down at the end of rows to cover this entire vineyard west of Porterville. The rain never touched the grapes and so crews were able to continue harvesting bunches off the vine.
HMC Vineyard operations manager Tim McIntyre says the plastic covers help extend the growing season. "The plastic goes over the top and then the middle of this canopy, on this gable system trellis if we do get rain the water will run through the middle and come out between the bunches so they don't even get touched."
30-percent of the crop still needs to be picked so the weather can cause problems with late varieties like the crimson seedless. McIntyre explained, "If we get rain before the fruit matures it causes the quality to be unpackable for table grape quality and we get split skin and rot."
McIntyre says his grapes needed more time to develop their deep red color because of a very hot August and September. The plastic covers offer added protection. Without them, crews would have no work on this day. He said, "We wouldn't even be here. We'd be waiting to see what's happening with the crop."
Grapes damaged by rain could end up at the winery instead of the fresh fruit market. Mcintyre says the plastic covers give him peace of mind. He said, "I know growers who don't and it's a gamble and a risk you take and if you can get in through that window of opportunity without no weather you're successful."
McIntyre says he still has three weeks left in the harvest season. And again about a third of his crop is still on the vine so it's important the grapes stay dry.