Wisconsin’s fruit & wine industry: what you need to know

Amaya Atucha
Extension Fruit Crop Specialist
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Horticulture
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Total Time: 6:36

0:10 – Crops this season
0:45 – The wet spring’s impact on crops
1:17 – What crops are in season and what’s grown in WI
1:45 – Specific effects on those crops
3:09 – Crops as the fall begins
4:03 – Wine in WI
4:51 – Tips and tricks for growers
6:01 – Lead out



Adam Wigger: We’re talking today with Amaya Atucha, Extension Fruit Crop Specialist, University of Wisconsin Madison, Department of Horticulture, Division of Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and I’m Adam Wigger. Amaya, how has the summer been treating fruit crops? 

Amaya Atucha: Well this summer we are definitely seeing the results of the extreme cold winter that we had and so the beginning of the summer or the beginning of the spring was a little bit rocky with the reality of a lot of damage to fruit crops a lot of damage to trees, to vines. So that has been a little bit harder I think a lot of homeowners and growers are trying to work into recovering some of those trees so they can be back into production so that there has been definitely something I set back a little bit – the production this year. 

Adam Wigger: What has the really wet spring that we’ve had meant for our fruit crops as well?

Amaya Atucha: In addition to their really cold winter we had a very wet spring that definitely impacts in the pressure for diseases. So with a very wet spring you tend to see more diseases more proliferation of diseases and so growers have to be much more attent and scouting for them and being on top of controlling them which is not always the case every year, especially if we have dry years you know. There’s less diseases.

Adam Wigger: What kind of crops are in season right now or what do people grow around here in Wisconsin?

Amaya Atucha: So during this time. So it’s almost the end of July, we have for sure have already have a lot of harvest of strawberries. We’re beginning the raspberries, grapes. We are still I would say a good month away from harvesting our first grapes and apples as well. So those are more into like late summer early fall. 

Adam Wigger: Kind of going back to the possible effects of the winter and the spring what are the effects that we’re seeing on those crops, specifically?

Amaya Atucha: So overall it’s just less flowers. Flower buds that have to survive the winter are very sensitive to cold temperatures. So are the ones that are mostly damaged. And if you don’t have flowers you don’t have fruit. So reducing the number of flowers is overall reducing yields. Now in many of the crops that we grow here in the state especially talking about apples and grapes. What happens is that on grapes you can have a lot of damage to those buds but there is sort of like an insurance thing in the sense that grapes have secondary shoots that also carry flowers and you can have a crop on them. So even when you have substantial damage, those secondary shoots will compensate for it. So you can still have abnormal yield in your vineyard. In the case of apples apple trees always put way more flowers than what you really need for a full crop. You actually only 10 percent of those flowers so even in the case that you have less blossoms which has been the case this year you can still get a full crop. So we’ll still have good crops this year even with all of the problems the cold winter and extremely wet spring. 

Adam Wigger: Wisconsin sounds like a pretty resilient fruit crop state!

Amaya Atucha: Most of the crops that we grow here we grow them for a reason because they can actually produce and we just have excellent growers.

Adam Wigger: Fair enough! Props to Wisconsin farmers. The summer is kind of winding down now – it’s the end of July. What should we be looking for or looking forward to as we’re entering the fall? 

Amaya Atucha: During this time, I think that it’s important to keep an eye on irrigation for fruit crops. It tends to be a little bit more dry during this time. So just making sure that we’re still taking care of irrigating them even when you know you have that memory mind of these so wet and you don’t think that you need to water your trees and your vines they need to be watered. And also making sure that there’s no stresses that you’re controlling if you still see diseases and you see insects still control them because all of that is going to influence how these plants are going to go into the winter. So if you have a plant a stressed during this time it’s going to have less chances of surviving the winter so you want to make sure that the plants are healthy so that they will be able to withstand the cold winters of Wisconsin.

Adam Wigger: And if I remember correctly you’re also a wine expert? 

Amaya Atucha: The grapes that we grow here are for wine mostly. 

Adam Wigger: So did you teach a class on that recently?

Amaya Atucha: Yes we taught a class on wine appreciation last summer. And I think that’s a class that will happen again summer of 2020. We’re planning on having it. So it’s a very interesting class in which we just give an overall overview of what is wine production which also includes grape production obviously on how to appreciated it were things that go into tasting a wine and how giving an overview of different ways of the world. We bring guest speakers so we have a couple of analogies from one of the some of the wineries here in Wisconsin and other faculty from UW-Madison that cover some areas of expertise that are related with that wine production.

Adam Wigger: What kind of tips and tricks do you have for either amateur growers or professional people in the agriculture industry who are dealing? With these kinds of cold problems with their crops? 

Amaya Atucha: I think the important thing is to be able to read and find good information and good resources and be able to find reliable sources of information. So I always encourage the growers to look at our website. We also have us the fruit team extension. We have a newsletter that we put together during the summer and the growing season it goes out every other week. We have a new website where we post different articles related with what is happening now where you should be looking at what are some of the tips on how to deal with something that happened during the growing season. Sometimes these pest alerts or disease problems that we are seeing when we just go out and be growers. That’s really important for growers to be able to find reliable good information. There’s so much information in the world that will leave and finding good information off extension Web sites from universities. It’s where you should go first.

Adam Wigger: So what is your web site?

Amaya Atucha: Our web site is fruit.wisc.edu.

Adam Wigger:  Do you have any other information that you want to share for the season any tips and tricks. What you’re growing maybe?

Amaya Atucha: What I’m growing! I actually just plant my first fruit trees in my house this year. Really. So I planted two apple trees and a plum tree.

Adam Wigger: Wow. Are you seeing any yield yet? 

Amaya Atucha: They’re too young for that too young. We’re going to have to take maybe two other seasons to be able to get some fruit. 

Adam Wigger:Yeah. Perfect. Thank you so much. We’ve been visiting today with Amaya Atucha Extension fruit crop specialist, Department of Horticulture UW-Madison Division of Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and I’m Adam Wigger.