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It’s pruning time in the wine industry – a time when the vine begins to awaken from its winter slumber and the preparation for the next wine grape harvest begins in all earnest.

“Pruning is one of the most important tasks in a vineyard. By pruning the vineyard correctly, we can give the vine the desired shape and control the harvest and bunch size, as well as the quality of the wine grapes. It can also be used to control vigour,” says Hanno van Schalkwyk, Vinpro viticulturist and coordinator of Vinpro’s vineyard worker training.

Depending on the specific vineyard and producer’s needs, pruners should consider the following:

  • Take into consideration that bud fertility increases from the base to about the middle of the shoot, after which it decreases again. The best bud percentage is obtained with short pruning.
  • Prune weak shoots that grow from a two-year spur immediately to a one-bud spur, to ensure better growth and larger bunches.
  • Prune the vine with the appropriate number of bearers to ensure that the shoots are strong enough to balance the vigour with the crop size and wine goal.
  • Cover bare areas, which occur frequently in vineyards where the cordon develops too far from a weak shoot, with a shoot that is braided in, and prune away all unnecessary buds.
  • Determine where the pruning shoots should be discarded – either scattered in the middle of the row, where it is later cut into smaller pieces by a bush cutter to serve as mulch, or cut into smaller pieces and sprinkled on the berm.
  • Fungus control (for example Eutypa dieback due to the Eutypa lata fungus) can be applied by not pruning at all on rainy days, by sterilising pruning shears at the end of each row, spraying Trichoderma directly after pruning on pruning wounds, and by avoiding large pruning wounds.

These tips are part of Vinpro’s annual training for vineyard workers. Wine grape producers can now request practical demonstrations in the form of a half-day course to be presented on the farm, for no more than 15 people, and according to strict COVID-19 safety protocols. The new format replaces the usual predetermined full-day courses that involved both theory and practice for larger groups.

Producers can choose from two practical sessions:

Winter training:
Basic pruning principles (short, half-long bearer and Guyot systems)
Maintenance of pruning shears
Prevention of trunk diseases
Correct planting techniques of young vines.

Summer training:
Basic functioning of the vine
Goal of canopy management
Different canopy management techniques
Young vine development
Common pests and diseases.

The cost is R210 per person. Book a practical training session by contacting the Vinpro training office at 021 276 0429 or email training@vinpro.co.za.

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