Chapter 9

Pruning and Training Grapevines

Pruning Grapevines

Dormant pruning is a critical component of wine grape production, providing a mechanism controlling the size and the form of the grapevine, optimizing the production potential of the grapevine, and maintaining the balance between shoot and fruit growth. If the vine is left unpruned, the number of grape clusters would be excessive resulting in a reduced rate of sugar accumulation, reduced pigmentation in the berry skins, and decreased synthesis of flavor and aroma constituents. Other negative effects include poor wood maturation and a reduction in vigor and vine size.

Principles of Grapevine Behavior

Some of the principles of grapevine behavior that one must consider when pruning vines are discussed below enunciated by Winkler et al. (1974).

Time of Pruning

Vines can be pruned during the dormant season between leaf fall and bud break the following spring. Early pruning in wet winter climates exposes the vines to greater risk of infection by wood canker diseases (e.g., Eutypa dieback).

Balanced Pruning

The practice of balanced pruning aims to maintain the balance between yield, fruit quality, and vegetative growth. Balanced pruning is used regardless of the type of pruning and trellising system.

Overcropping

If too many fruitful buds are left during winter pruning, the photosynthetic capacity will be inadequate to ripen the fruit clusters. This situation is referred to as overcropping.

Undercropping

Undercropping involves retaining too few buds resulting in a vigorous canopy at the expense of fruit production. Undercropping just doesn’t lower yields, but as a consequence produces an excessively shaded canopy that provides a poor fruit-ripening environment.

Methods in Determining Vine Balance

There are a number of methods used in determining vine balance, but some of the most common are:

Pruning Formulas: Pruning formulas for many varieties have been developed to calculate the number of buds to be retained for a given pruning weight. A pruning formula of [30 + 10], for example, would require leaving 30 buds for the first pound of canes removed, plus an additional 10 buds for each additional pound of prunings.

Yield-to-Pruning-weight Ratio: Another pruning strategy that utilizes the vine balance concept is to adjust pruning levels based on the yield-to-pruning-weight ratio, also known as the Ravaz Index. It is calculated by dividing the pounds (kgs) of fruit per vine in a given row or block at harvest by the pounds (kgs) of pruned canes per vine taken from the same area the following winter.

Average Cane Weight: Mean shoot weight is a good index of vigor. Counting the number of dormant canes per vine before pruning and dividing by the number of canes pruned gives the average cane weight.

Suckering

Suckering is the removal of undesirable shoots that originate from the trunk and below the ground.

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