Mitigating climate risks in winemaking

Published on: 29 February 2016

Researchers at the Environment and Sustainability Institute have been working with Cornish winemakers to develop practical tools to help manage the risks of adverse weather and protect their crops.

Winemaking is a burgeoning industry in Cornwall that has grown dramatically in recent years, but it is threatened by unpredictable weather conditions caused by climate change. Grape vines are highly sensitive to changes in the weather and unexpected frosts can destroy entire crops.

Dr Ilya Maclean, lecturer in Natural Environment at the ESI, has analysed weather data from the past 30 years to create a detailed picture of variations in climate conditions across areas of land such as a vineyard.

The project, funded by an innovation grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), has produced easy-to-use online maps for vineyard managers, allowing them to zoom in on a part of the landscape and view areas where strong rainfall and frost risk are predicted. This enables them to adapt their planting practices, as well as helping pinpoint potential sites for new vineyards.  

Dr Maclean is optimistic about the benefits this research for other Cornish businesses and to agriculture as a whole.

He said: “One of the reasons that we are doing our work is that it can be applied to any agricultural crop that is sensitive to climate. Daffodil growing is a big industry in Cornwall – if we could inform farmers which would be the parts of the landscape where daffodils would flower earliest, that’s going to help them get their product to market.”

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