In The Vineyard: A Change To Pruning Styles

It’s March and the vineyard managers have been busy in the vines preparing for our next vintage. Our teams have been just about wrapped up pruning and discovered a little extra work that needs to be done while the vines are dormant.

We identified certain sections of some vineyards where we feel a change in pruning style would be beneficial for vine health and the crop as a whole. As we’ve discussed before, there are a few different pruning styles – Guyot or spur — that tend to be used in a vineyard, each of which has its own pros and cons.

Working closely with the vineyard teams, we have noticed weaknesses and decided to change to how we treat the vine. In this case, we’re switching up the pruning style, which we’ll do generally for one of two reasons. First, when sickness is present in vines we’ll make a change; second, the cold, wet Springs we’ve endured the past few years can lead to irregular fruitfulness on the vines.

A significant cause of grapevine decline is a fungal disease called Eutypa.  Widespread Eutypa in a vineyard causes fruit production to plummet to the point where the vineyard may need to be replanted.

Many of you know that when we prune fruit trees or vines we open up large wounds that can lead to disease.  When we cut off branches or canes on the woody parts of these plants, microorganisms – like the ones that cause Eutypa — can gain access to the plant’s vascular system and cause disease.

But, fortunately, there’s a pretty easy, safe fix. Your local hardware store carries a special kind of paint to cover pruning cuts in order to protect against infection.  I even use one called Morrison’s Tree Seal on my vines at home.

But we’re still careful to choose how we prune to achieve maximum protection against disease while retaining fruitful vines. Cane pruning, or Guyot-style pruning, leaves significantly less wounds open to the Eutypa fungus. Cane pruning can also help improve fruit production in a vineyard that has shown irregular fruitfulness or limited vigor.

Spur-pruning, on the other hand, leaves only the first two or three basal buds to grow into fruiting canes for the New Year.  Many varieties show low fruitfulness in these basal buds.  Growing new fruiting canes from 6-8 buds on last year’s wood can correct this problem.

See last year’s video if you need a refresher on spur-pruning or Guyot-style pruning.