Vineyard Air Temperature Profiles and Their Implications for Vine Training Decisions

This project evaluated how air temperatures vary with height above the ground surface throughout the growing season at various vineyard areas representative of the diverse Central Coast region. The purpose of this project was to identify if useful stratification in temperatures occurred at the study sites, and to quantify the potential benefits that could be attained by using alternative vine training heights to reduce potential frost risk and/or to avoid excessive summertime temperatures. The fundamental hypothesis of this effort has been that taller vine training heights may bring useful benefits in some areas, and that this type of detailed temperature analysis will help identify those areas and help to predict what benefits may be obtained with any changes in vine training height.

The 2013 season measurements at seven sites in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties proceeded as planned, however with an equipment malfunction resulting in only partial season data at one site in Shandon. Temperatures were measured at one-foot intervals above the ground surface between 1 ft. and 8 ft. heights, using precision data loggers taking high-frequency measurements. Some sites demonstrated useful increases in temperature with increasing height above the ground surface on cold spring nights, but this pattern was not observed everywhere. In the most extreme example, the temperature gain at 8 ft. elevation was 9 °F warmer than at 1 ft. elevation; such stratification would have very positive benefits for frost protection. Other sites showed little similar stratification, likely due to air movement during the night.

At all sites the cumulative degree days over the April 1 – October 31 growing period tended to decrease with increasing height above the ground. This indicates the potential that taller vine training heights may have for addressing some of the gradual increases in degree days that have been occurring in recent decades, and which are forecast to continue increasing with climate change.

In 2014, detailed measurements are being conducted with multiple stations at two properties, to determine how variable the temperature profile characteristics can be at individual sites. The assessment of temperature profiles over different ground cover conditions was not conducted as planned due to insufficient cover crop conditions; this will be addressed at a later date.