Salinas Valley grape growers counting on groundwater

Grape growers in the Salinas Valley are not yet feeling the pain of the rest of the state when it comes to water.

”We have an abundance of underground storage in the Valley and have no immediate concerns of not being able to irrigate,” says Jason Smith, general manager of Paraiso Vineyards, Soledad, Calif. “Our concern with the drought is actual rainfall. Although drip irrigation is great for saving water in a drought situation, it is not good for driving salts out of the root zone. We are at about half of our annual rainfall total which is currently about 5 to 6 inches. We have been irrigating before and during storms to help fill the soil profile so that when a good rain does come we are able to drive water and salts through the top 3 feet where a lot of the roots are.”

Mark Battany, San Luis Obispo UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor will host a vineyard salinity conference March 10, in Templeton, Calif., to address issues on the Central Coast.

“We are lucky to be where we are and can have that as a management tool,” Smith says. “Of course a prolonged drought would definitely start to see our water tables drop in our existing wells. But at this point we have not seen that happen to any significant level.”

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