Spur Pruning Cordon Question

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jackl

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Due to labor shortages I've been helping a small 3.5 acre local vineyard on an Island on the St. Lawrence River in Northern NYS manage their vineyard. It's an absolutely beautiful spot only accessible by boat and they actually have some very good tasting wines. They have around 3,000 vines consisting of Baco Noir, Chardonnay, Prairie Star, Marquette and Frontenac.

The vineyard was initially planted in 2012 and expanded a few times. The trellis systems and vine structure, which is primarily 2 arm low cordon VSP is well established. Given our location, the buds are just starting to swell and we are about 2/3 done pruning.

As I've been evaluating the vine structure, I've identified a lot of areas in need of improvement. For example, many of the spurs are too long, hence new canes are emerging 5-6 inches from cordon. There is also quite bit of crowding due to the distance between spurs and their propensity to overlap cordons from neighboring vines. Vine spacing is about 6-8 feet. However, some of the cordons extend 8-12 feet and in many cases they have 3 cordons overlapping on the same wire. I've attached a few pictures.

By the way, to expedite pruning given our small crew, we have the less experienced pruners making an initial cut at the first catch wire. Then the more experienced pruners trim the spurs to one cane with 2 buds per cane not counting the base bud.

I've never seen this before and wondered if it was practiced anywhere, This would seem to contribute to overcrowding, hinder air circulation and potentially make it easier spread disease. I've always pruned mine so that the cordon ends just touch one another. In addition, in one field, the cordon is only 12 inches from the ground and mine are around waist high.

However, since we're a bit behind and short staffed, I've been less judicious about trying address the issue this year. I've been talking to the vineyard owner about a plan to rejuvenate the vines over a 2-3 year period as I don't want to drastically impact his harvest. I've removed some of the triple layered cordons, but there's much more to be done!

Any comments, suggestions on this situation and what we should do would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Cynewulf

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I’m no expert on this but what I’m finding with my hybrids that I’m training to VSP is that the nodes on the shoots/cordons can be spaced much further apart than on my vinifera. Therefore, in order to maintain 4-6 shoots per foot I’ve allowed some of the cordons to overlap at least until I can get spurs established where I want them. I wonder if that’s what your local vineyard is up to?
 

jackl

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I’m no expert on this but what I’m finding with my hybrids that I’m training to VSP is that the nodes on the shoots/cordons can be spaced much further apart than on my vinifera. Therefore, in order to maintain 4-6 shoots per foot I’ve allowed some of the cordons to overlap at least until I can get spurs established where I want them. I wonder if that’s what your local vineyard is up to?
Good good point. Thanks for the input!
 

tmcfadden932

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Cane density depends on the site location and the volume in tons per acre that the varietal produces the best wine. Where you're at, air movement in and around the vines won't be a problem but getting some sun on the grapes to help even out the ripening might be an issue.

I manage a small 1/3 acre Cab vineyard outside of Lodi, Ca. and sun burn is an issue we have to deal with, Cab takes 180 days from bud break to harvest and usually is harvested the first or second week in October and last year we had temps at 110F for a week before harvest. Needless to say working with grapes with 29% sugar was a challenge. We shoot for about six tons to the acre, this vineyard will give 4,500lbs easily, so some dropping of fruit is necessary.

It's planted on a 7 by 12 spacing, 7ft between the vines and 12ft between the rows using a quad lateral trellis at about 4ft high. I used to let some cordons grow, when we would loose a vine to disease, twice as long as the rest of them. After talking to a old time grower, I stopped doing that. He clued me in on the need to get the fruit to ripen at the same time so you only have to pick once. Clusters from longer cordons take longer to ripen. We also go and drop all green clusters two weeks after the other clusters start to show color to even out the ripening.

Each vine has 4 cordons with a spur every six inches, 24 spurs total. Each spur has 2 buds left to develop into canes and each cane is left with 2 clusters of grapes. If all were left, there would be 96 clusters per vine, which would take longer to ripen if all were left. We don't have the frost problem that you have to deal with, our problem is the start of the rainy season in October.
 

balatonwine

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There is also quite bit of crowding due to the distance between spurs and their propensity to overlap cordons from neighboring vines. Vine spacing is about 6-8 feet. However, some of the cordons extend 8-12 feet and in many cases they have 3 cordons overlapping on the same wire.

I have experienced similar. Normally when the vineyard owner is maximizing quantity over quality.

To get them to change may be difficult. As the change will reduce quantity, significantly, and there may not be much improvement in quality for many years. So the vineyard will loose money in that transition period.
 

tmcfadden932

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I have experienced similar. Normally when the vineyard owner is maximizing quantity over quality.

To get them to change may be difficult. As the change will reduce quantity, significantly, and there may not be much improvement in quality for many years. So the vineyard will loose money in that transition period.
Unless the vineyard has been neglected and not fertilized properly either through the addition of a good nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizer with micronutrients or organically with the proper cover crops it the dormant season, the quality of the fruit should improve the following season after removing the excess cordons.
The 225 vine vineyard I manage was neglected before I arrived to the point that the fruiting canes would only grow 14 to 16 inches and barely set any fruit at all in more then half the vineyard.
It took three years of the proper fertilizer program to get the growth to were it should be.
The fruit production was another issue altogether as all the spurs were removed by someone who thought they looked "ugly". It taken 5 years to get the production from 800lbs to 4,500lbs of high quality fruit.
We contact the county ag agent and get advice on the proper way to proceed with the work and get the knowledge of someone that has seen it all.
 

balatonwine

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the quality of the fruit should improve the following season after removing the excess cordons.

I think the error is mine. In now adding a bit more details. I do so below.

You are right. Some improvement should happen if the vineyard manager connects all the dots. But my comment was not only about improvement of quality as a singular issue. Since quality improvement the first year is still not necessarily the optimal the vineyard can produce in a few years under a proper management system.

And that first year improvement needs to take into account a very complex world of wine. So improvements may not offset costs, the vineyard may still loose money for many years even if the fruit is improving.

That is, if one is selling grapes or making wine for retail sale, there is going to be a lag period when the buyer (be it a commercial grape buyer or the public buying a bottle of your wine) will not easily adjust to one's claims of "improved fruit", and be willing to pay the adjusted price to offset those improvements. So any "improvement" will still take years to reach optimal levels in a both a biological and economical sense. And that reality, and lag time (due to varios affects of structure, biology, economy, etc) may take many years to adjust the vineyard's income back to what "it was" after a drastic change in vineyard practices. So not informing the vineyard owner of those possible realities can be very counter productive (and can loose one a long term contract). Just saying... :cool:

Or to quote myself:

So the vineyard will loose money in that transition period.

The above is a very terse and very simplistic explanation. But should be enough. If one needs more details PM me. This concludes my free advice.... ;)
 
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VinesnBines

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They have around 3,000 vines consisting of Baco Noir, Chardonnay, Prairie Star, Marquette and Frontenac.
Just to point out: only one variety is vinifera so the vineyard needs a consultant that is experienced with hybrids. As Cynewulf notes, the plan may need to be different than a vinifera vineyard.
 
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Since the vineyard is double trunking I guess there is a high chance of frost damage. The extra cordons could be frost insurance. I have also seen in some California central valley vineyards with old vines, the growers will layer a younger vine over the top to boost the yield in an efficient manner. It is not for quality wine, and sometimes such grapes are used to produce mega-purple.

Maybe the vines are like this because "that's the way we always have done it"
 
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