Today's question comes from Erin Whitten who asks "Where do you get the seeds?"
Erin, this is an interesting question, with maybe a surprising answer. There are over 2,000,000 grapevines in the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, so it would take a lot of seeds to grow all of those vines. If you have eaten Concord or Niagara grapes, you know that there are seeds in them, so you might think that this is where all of those seeds come from to grow all of those vines. That's a lot of seeds.
However, grapevines aren't grown from seeds, but from cuttings from another vine. This process is known as vegetative propagation, and is widely used for many other types as plants as well. Propagating vines in this way ensures that each new vine produces fruit that is the same as the parent—the vine from which the cutting was taken. We could grow grapevines from seeds, but the new plant would be a genetic combination of its two parents (which produced the viable seed) and may not have the same properties. A seed from a Concord grape might produce a vine that has fruit with a very different flavor or even color. It's kind of like the way that children look a little like each of their their parents, but are not identical to them, or to their brothers and sisters for that matter.
Vegetative propagation is possible because a cutting from a vine will produce a new root system if given the right conditions, and it can then be planted in the vineyard. Every year, growers prune their vines as part of the growing processs, and the material that is cut off can be gathered up, carefully rooted, and replanted in the vineyard. Growers can also purchase young vines from nurseries that specialize in producing young vines from cuttings from the many different grape varieties.
It should be noted that grapevines can be very long-lived, and don't have to be planted or replanted very often. Some of the vineyards in the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt were planted in the late 1800's and are still producing fruit today. That's over 100 years old!
You can see the process of growing vines in the Star Family Exhibit Room at the Grape Discovery Center on your next visit.