Role of Rootstocks in Planting Grapes
Phylloxera was originally introduced to Europe in the 1860s from the eastern part of North America. By 1868, it had destroyed over one-third of the vineyards in France. Fortunately, rootstocks from phylloxera’s native environment, including Vitis rupestris and Vitis riparia were discovered to be resistant to the pest.
The AXR-1 rootstock was used successfully for many years as a resistant rootstock against phylloxera. However, during the late 1980s it became apparent that the rootstock had lost some of its resistant traits. Suddenly vineyards all over California Wine Country were in jeopardy.
Those who survived this second phylloxera outbreak did so through shrewd but often capital intensive vineyard replanting. In many cases, what was initially viewed as a disaster turned into an opportunity. Growers and vintners were able to reevaluate what was grown where on a very large scale.
Soil type, pH level, climate and varietal are all important determinants of rootstock selection. Rootstocks can influence when grapes will be fully mature during the growing season. Some have higher resistance to phylloxera than others. “Freedom” is a very high-vigor rootstock that is widely used in the Central Valley.
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