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Wind Machines for Vineyard Frost Protection


Wind Machines for Vineyard Frost Protection

By Ann Maurice

Drenching vineyards with tens of thousands of gallons of well, creek or river water has been standard practice in local vineyards for frost protection. In late winter when buds first emerge on the vines, there is threat of frost, and vineyards, especially in low lying areas and frost pockets, run the risk of losing some of their crop.

So what do they do? Drench the vines with water to the tune of 50-60 gallons per minute per acre! That unbelievable amount of water is typical. How unbelievable an amount is it? Just do the arithmetic. A 25 acre vineyard uses 25 (acres) X 55 (gallons per minute) X 60 (minutes per hour) = 82,500 gallons in just one hour on only 25 acres! That’s more water in one hour on a mere 25 acres than your household uses in one year! (365 days per year X 200 gallons per day). And if you conserve water, you know you are probably using much, much less.

How many such 25 acres parcels are there in frost prone areas? Any wonder the underground water-bearing aquifers are drying up? Any wonder area creeks are going dry?

The Ad Hoc Committee for Clean Water has been advocating wind machines as an alternative to water for frost protection. Fans have been used successfully for decades. The Farm Bureau, in their current December 2015 newsletter reports that the Sonoma County Rural Conservation District and the Goldridge Resource Conservation District (RCDs) are now on board. They will develop a grant proposal to pursue funding for wind machines for the 2016 frost season if they get enough grower interest.

How can you be effective in promoting this plan? Go wine tasting and ask your hosts if they know about the potential for wind machine grants and if they would consider contacting one of the RCDs to give the proposal their support.

Together we can return flow to our creeks and rivers, keep the groundwater in the aquifers and enjoy the return to a healthy, productive watershed.