By Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaWith the fall harvest set to begin, Georgia muscadine growers arewarily eyeing Tropical Storm Katrina, hoping the tropical seasonwill be kinder to them this year than last.”We had three storms last year, and they cost us about half ofour crop,” said Charles Cowart, owner of Still Pond Vineyardsnear Arlington, Ga. “We don’t need any more of that.”Cowart said he had planned to begin harvesting his 160 acres ofmuscadine grapes this week. “But they’re just not ripening,” hesaid. “We’ve put it off now until the first of next week.”As Katrina began threatening south Florida, the Georgia muscadinecrop was looking good. “We’ve got a better-than-average crop,”Cowart said. “The sugars are low, but we’ve got some prettyfruit, large fruit.”No problemThe low sugar content isn’t a problem, he said. “If everybodyelse had high sugars and we were the only ones around with lowsugars, it might be a problem,” he said. “But in a high-moistureseason, everybody’s got low sugars. That’s just a given.”The rainy summer, he said, will just “make the sugar man happy.”Some sugar has to be added to any muscadine juice being fermentedinto wine. The lower the sugar content, the greater the need foradded sugar.The summer’s abundant rainfall has created a more seriouspotential problem, though: a high risk for tropical storm damage.The crop just can’t handle a lot of rain right now.”It would split a lot of grapes,” Cowart said. “There’s just somuch water they can hold, and they can’t go beyond that. Thegrapes are ripening now, and if we get a lot of rain now they’lltake up more water than they can hold.”Wind damageHigh winds could hurt the crop, too, said Paul Wigley, theUniversity of Georgia Cooperative Extension coordinator inCalhoun County.”High winds can put a bunch of grapes on the ground,” Wigleysaid. “And once the grapes hit the ground, you can’t use them injuices or wines.”Cowart, who makes juice and wine products with all of hismuscadine crop, said Tropical Storm Frances hit his farm with 50to 60 mile-per-hour winds in early September last year and shookoff a lot of his grapes.”The grapes aren’t as ripe now as they were with Frances,” hesaid. The heavier the grapes, the more susceptible they are tobeing blown off their vines by high winds.Georgia has about 1,200 commercial acres of muscadines. The cropbegins ripening in August in south Georgia. The harvest movesnorthward through the upper piedmont area, where it ends in earlyOctober.Many Georgia gardeners grow muscadines as a backyard fruit. UGAExtension experts figure the state has probably twice as manybackyard muscadines as commercial acres. Your county UGAExtension agent can tell you how to grow them.(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Both teams could use a boost after poor European form, and will be looking to lay down a marker for the rest of the season in the 5.15 kick off.Nenagh man Donnacha Ryan starts for the home side with Cahir native Tommy O’Donnell included among the replacements after his return from injury. The league’s two Italian sides meet at 2 with Zebre taking on Treviso. While at five past three Edinburgh play Glasgow and the Dragons take on the Cardiff Blues.