Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pruning vs Pre-pruning

Last year we decided to change things up in the vineyard. Sure the vines have been around for a hundred plus years, but it just felt right.  In effort to bring the viticulture into the 21st century we hired Jim Munk of A Cut Above Viticulture Services, he has been working with zinfandel for years so it is a great fit for our historic vines.  He came on board with us last year in September and was a great asset for the 2011 harvest. 
An un-pruned vine

    This winter he did something that  has never been done in the Hayne Vineyard, he pre- pruned which means instead of pruning the canes all the way down to the one or two buds you cut the cane back to about 12 inches.  Later in the season the crew will come back and prune the cane all the way down to the one or two buds before bud break to finish the job.  Basically you take two passes through the vineyard instead of one.  I know that seems a bit nutty, but it is done for a few good reasons.
   Most importantly pre-pruning helps prevent the spread of disease.  Cutting any part of the vine leaves and open wound that is very susceptible to disease especially Eutypa and Bot Canker which eventually lead to stunted growth and lower yields.  If you leave a few extra inches of cane that creates a buffer zone so even if the vine becomes infected the diseased part of the cane will be cut off before it reaches the vine.  We have a pretty healthy vineyard, especially when you consider the age, and we would like to keep it that way so pre-pruning is a great option for us.
A Pre-pruned vine
   Another factor in pre-pruning is labor.  During the winter months there isn't that much to do in the vineyard and most managers prefer to keep their crews busy so they don't loose anyone.  Pre-pruning adds a few more weeks onto the schedule (sometimes months) so you don't loose the crew that you have trained and would like to keep around.  In a larger operation pre-pruning can actually save you money because it doesn't require as much as an exact cut as pruning so the men can go much faster and they don't have to be as skilled.
A pruned vine
     By now you may be asking yourself, pre-pruning, it sounds so wonderful, why would you do anything else?  Backup the trolly, there are a few drawbacks.  Because you are cutting the majority of the cane off in the first shot it becomes difficult to gauge the health of the vine.  The pruner may leave too few or too many buds per shoot causing the overall balance of the vine to shift.  Balance in a vine is one of the most important factors to producing amazing wine grapes. If they are vigorous and not allowed to produce a larger amount of fruit they will go crazy with green growth taking the focus away from ripening grapes, and on the other side if the vine is allowed to produce more then it should the vine will not be able to ripen the fruit properly.
Overall we have faith in Mr. Munk and I can't wait to see what our little guys will produce in the future.

Rebecca Martin
Chase Cellars

1 comment:

MostroMondo said...

In the fourth paragraph it says that pre-pruning saves money, because it's a less precise cut and the crew can move faster. This seems misleading, aren't you still going to have to pay the crew to go through a second time and prune the whole thing at regular speed? It seems like it would still be an additional cost for the operation.