Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE01-356
This project modified a mechanical pruner for grapes to keep more productive wood on the vines. The modifications made to the mechanical pruner allow the machine to lift some of the best wood on the vines and to cut the unproductive wood on the lower side of the canopy. The mechanical pruning unit requires adjustment in each new vineyard to reduce the amount of hand-pruning follow-up. The amount of hand pruning that now occurs is done at a rate of about 80 – 100 vines per hour, compared to 24 vines per hour when the entire vine is hand-pruned.
Data collected from the trial showed that yield and brix were identical between plots that were entirely hand-pruned vs those pruned by the modified mechanical pruner with some hand-pruning follow-up. Since the yield and brix were the same between the two treatments, a “pruning calculator” was devised to compare the costs of the two pruning systems. With 189 acres of grapes, the Betts’ saved almost $30,000 per year in pruning costs.
Demonstrations on the Betts farm and other farms allowed growers to see the differences between the modified mechanical pruner and the un-modified pruner. They have spoken with growers from New York to Michigan and have seen a great difference in growers attitudes about mechanical pruning in one year. They are very pleased with the results from the modified pruner but feel that more improvements can be made to the mechanical pruner and to their method for the hand-pruning follow-up to further reduce costs.