My Deep South Vineyard

I live in the land of Pierce’s Disease (PD) and heavy fungal disease pressure.  Muscadines are king here for good reason — they grow and produce fruit.  Bunch grapes are a different story.  Many varieties are susceptible to PD and most are also susceptible to the multitude of fungal diseases present along the Gulf Coast, including Black Rot, Anthracnose, Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew, Phomopsis, etc.  Some work was done years ago on bunch grapes in Mississippi, even some in the southern part of the state.  Unfortunately for me (or fortunately depending on your perspective), I work on a station that is 3.5 hours from the main campus (and the library).  So, I don’t have ready access to all of those old research publications.  But I know there are some varieties they did not test and that is why I have started a vineyard in Poplarville (there is also a replicated vineyard at Beaumont too).   I have put in some of the usual suspects in the vineyard, including ‘Blanc du bois’ and ‘Villard blanc’.  These are interspecific hybrid grapes that have some resistance or tolerance to PD.  What else am I putting in, you ask?  ‘Victoria’s Red’ is one (thanks to Jim Kamas at TAMU).  A table grape originally from the University of Arkansas breeding program that was given second life in Texas.  I also have ‘Miss Blanc’, ‘MidSouth’, FAMU 99,’ Himrod’, ‘Conquistador’, ‘Champanel’, ‘Daytona’, and ‘Lake Emerald’ (many thanks to Wayne Adams).  Another, ‘Rubaiyat’, may make it from the greenhouse to the field soon as well (thanks to Becky Carroll at OK State).  The main part of the vineyard is ‘Blanc du bois’, ‘Villard blanc’, and ‘Miss Blanc’.  These vines will be used in a study (or studies).  The rest are for pure observation.  As the vineyard progresses I will update things here.  As you can see below, things are in the beginning stages, but the vines will grow rapidly in this environment.  Check out the photos below.

The new vineyard in Poplarville

The new vineyard in Poplarville

Victoria's Red with an inflorescence already (which will be removed)

‘Victoria’s Red’ with an inflorescence already (which will be removed)

A little freeze damage, but coming back strong

A little freeze damage, but coming back strong



5 thoughts on “My Deep South Vineyard

  1. I honestly think that the real answer for sustainable viticulture in Mississippi is using our own native vines as a source for a new breed of parents. I’m not sure what everyone else has, but in my own small corner of the world I have all kinds of native vines – aestivalis, cinerea and hybrids. I have started propigating the aestivalis and cinerea for my own breeding purposes and haven’t observed their berries yet, but my cinerea makes a suitable wine with decent sugar. High acid though that will have to be dealt with in selecting a partner. Both are extremely resistant to disease, on the same level as my muscadine.
    Florida has been doing this for awhile, which is how they got their Blanc du Bois and other varieties. I think they have got it right and there is no reason that we can’t do the same here. It takes a long time and lot’s of patience, but why not try?

    • Casey:
      While I agree that using native vines is an important component of introducing sustainable viticulture to Mississippi, finding a native vine that has sufficient commercial qualities to make it valuable for widespread planting is akin to a needle in a haystack. Having fruit quality, yield, disease resistance, and value-added quality (in case of wine, juice, jellies, etc.) in a single vine is rare. What I am doing is just trying to get some baseline information on these varieties and then look at how to improve on them. This may include breeding by crossing existing varieties or it may be improved cultural practices (pruning practices, spray timing and materials, etc.). I applaud you and others for working with the native vines though — we need this work to be done and it kind of falls outside of the realm of what I can feasibly do.

    • You are better off relying extensively on Lake Emerald, Champanel, FAMU 99. They have superior fruit given the huge amount of “native” ancestry. Lake Emeralds wild parent had really high sugars for a wild vine, as an example. You could possibly cross one of those with a native growing around you to get a strong native like parent but with slightly improve fruit that would better for breeding (like your own version of a w1521). Otherwise I think it would take 100 years to get good results. If you used a lot of native ancestry you might get something well adapted, but with poor fruit. Then using a lot of vinifera or northern ancestry you get better fruit, but poorly adapted. So I think you could put some native vines into the mix but would need to rely heavily on what’s already out there unless you want to spend a life time achieving results.

      • Superior fruit quality is generally tied to vinifera rather than native North American species, but I am looking forward to evaluating these vines. Most should bear a decent crop this year. My charge right now is to evaluate different varieties and look at how they grow (vigor, fruit quantity and quality, disease resistance, etc.) then decide which would fit into a potential program for improvement. Although it is possible to start with some native germplasm (I have found some vines that produce prodigious amounts of fruit, but are not high quality), you are correct that it would take a very long time to get it up to commercially acceptable levels.

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