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Texas High Plains
The Texas High Plains is the second largest AVA in Texas, comprising roughly 8 million acres in west Texas, mostly south of the Panhandle region. As the name indicates, this AVA lies within the High Plains sub region of the Great Plains in the central United States. The eastern border of the Texas High Plains AVA follows the 3,000 ft elevation contour line along the Caprock Escarpment, the steep transitional zone separating the High Plains from the lower plains to the east. Elevation within the Texas High Plains gradually increases from 3,000 ft (914 m) at the edge of the Caprock Escarpment to about 4,100 ft (1260 m) in the northwest portion of the AVA. Grapes and wine have been produced in this region since the mid-1970's and vineyards here have become a major grape supplier to wineries throughout the state.
The Texas High Plains contains 31 soil associations, five of which comprise 75% of the acreage in the region: Pullman-Randall-Lofton (22.8%), Amarillo-Acuff-Olton (19.5%), Patricia-Amarillo-Gomez (15.5%), Olton-Acuff-Amarillo (9.5%), and Pullman-Olton-Randall (7.7%). The second and third most prevalent associations are sandy clay loams that are very well suited to grape production.
The Amarillo-Acuff-Olton association covers more than 1.7 million acres, primarily in the west-central portion of the AVA. It is deep with a sandy loam texture from 0 to 30 cm (0-12 in) depth, transitioning into a sandy clay loam from 30 to 200 cm (12 to 79 in). Permeability rate in the upper 30 cm averages about 8.5 cm/hr (3.3 in/hr); within the sandy clay loam permeability is approximately 3.2 cm/hr (1.3 in/hr). Soil pH increases with depth; the sandy loam portion is approximately 7.3, while the sandy clay loam ranges from 7.9 to 8.1. Available water capacity at depths of 0-100, 100-150, and 150-250 cm (0-39, 39-59, 59-98 in) is 15, 22, and 28 cm (5.9, 8.7, 11.0 in), respectively.
The Patricia-Amarillo-Gomez association predominates in the southern portion of the AVA. This deep soil has a texture of sand from 0-40 cm (0-16 in) depth and sandy clay loam from 40-200 cm (16-79 in). Permeability within the sand is rapid (21-24 cm/hr; 8.3-9.4 in/hr), and slower in the sandy clay loam, from 3.5 to 6.5 cm/hr (1.4-2.6 in/hr). The pH ranges from 7.2 to 7.8, increasing with depth, and available water capacity is 12, 19, and 26 cm (4.7, 7.5, 10.2 in) at depths of 0-100, 100-150, and 150-250 cm (0-39, 39-59, 59-98 in) respectively.
The climate of the Texas High Plains is semi-arid, with hot summers and mild winters. The majority of the region receives an average annual precipitation of 43.7-52.6 cm (17-21 in); the range throughout the AVA is 41.4 to 63.7 cm (16-25 in), increasing from west to east. Grape ripening period mean temperature ranges from 23.9 to 26.7oC (75 to 80oF) in August and 20 to 22.2ºC (68-72oF) in September. Nighttime minimum temperatures range from 16.7-19.4oC (62-67 oF) in August and from 12.2-15.6oC (54-60 oF) in September. Temperatures generally decrease with increasing elevation from southeast to northwest.
Cumulative growing degree days (April-October, 10ºC base) follow a similar pattern, with the lowest degree day accumulations experienced in the northwest corner of the AVA, averaging 2028oC (3650 oF), and the highest in the southeast region, 2653ºC (4775 oF). January is the coldest month; average daily temperature ranges from 2.2 to 5.6oC (36 to 42 oF) and minimum temperatures are -5.6 to -2.2oC (22-28 oF).
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