Cold climate grapes: Increased sustainability through improved yield and quality

Final Report for FNE12-754

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,819.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Richard Lamoy
Hid-In-Pines Vineyard
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Project Information


The purpose of this project is to study the feasibility of increasing yield and quality of cold climate hybrid wine grapes through matching training systems for the vigor type of the varieties grown. Four Training Systems were utilized with 4 varieties of cold climate wine grapes. Yields as well as juice samples were gathered to make comparisons between the systems and recorded in a spreadsheet for further evaluation.

The four training systems were: TWC-Top Wire (High Wire) Cordon, VSP-Vertical Shoot Positioned (Mid Wire Cordon),Mod-GDC – Modified Geneva Double Curtain and Scott-Henry. Varieties were a low/medium vigor red (Mn1200), low/medium vigor white (Petite Amie) and a med/high vigor red (Marquette) and med/high vigor white (St. Pepin).

Results showed the differences obtained in both yield as well as juice quality over these four training systems and varieties. Most striking was the huge difference (10 tons per acre of Mod GDC compared to 3.75 tons per acre on VSP) of the Marquette variety. Overall the project did indeed show that certain training systems gave better overall responses which can lead to increased sustainability.

Field days provided outreach to researchers and growers. Results are available at


The farm name is Hid-In-Pines Farm and Vineyard and is located at 456 Soper Street in Morrisonville, NY. In the past it operated as a fresh vegetable and fruit farm as well as a small dairy. The farm is currently operating as a vineyard and began a winery operation in 2010. The vineyard currently consists of seven acres of cold hardy wine grapes. The latest expansion took place in 2012 when four acres of cold climate wine grapes were added. The existing outbuildings were turned into the new farm winery and the wine from the grape crop is marketed in the new tasting room. The buildings are finished with a rustic barn board siding to maintain the authentic look and character of an old farm. Wine sales are supplemented and promoted through direct sales at seven local Farmer’s Markets in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties of NY.

The technical advisor on this project is Justine Vanden Heuvel of Cornell University in Geneva, NY. Also acting as an advisor was Kevin Iungerman who is the Cornell Cooperative Extension Northeast NY Commercial Fruit Program Specialist. Mr. Iungerman heads up the Willsboro Cold Hardy Grape Trial at the Cornell Baker Farm.

Tim Martinson, head of Viticulture Extension was involved in outreach support from Cornell Cooperative Extension also in Geneva. Anita Deming was involved in Extension Outreach and is based at Cornell Cooperative Extension for Essex County in Westport.

This year Lake Champlain Wines – the local grape growers association – attended the outreach meetings where we combined this research project with some hands on demonstrations of trellising and training methods as well as showing the growing grapes in the trial to participants.

Project Objectives:

The purpose of my project was to study the feasibility of increasing yield and quality of cold climate hybrid wine grapes through matching training systems for the vigor type of the varieties grown. This project utilized hybrid wine grape varieties well suited to the Northeast. This project built upon information gathered in two past grants (2009 and 2010) using the existing vineyard on the farm for the study. It was my goal to collect useful data to be shared with others through in field meetings, flyers and posting to an online forum and my vineyard website .

I planted an additional trial vineyard in 2009 anticipating this study, to compare 4 cold hardy varieties- 2 reds and 2 whites (108 vines each or 432 vines total). There is a low/medium vigor red (Mn1200), low/medium vigor white (Petite Amie) and a med/high vigor red (Marquette) and med/high vigor white (St. Pepin). In the year of 2010 the trellis training systems were put in place and the vines trained to them. This provided the opportunity to demonstrate to other farmers some ways to establish trellising and train the vines to it. This initial structure and training is a very important first step towards improved yields and quality.

There were four training systems implemented for each variety with three replications of each. There are two single fruiting wire systems (either cane or cordon pruned) and two split systems with two fruiting wires. By demonstrating these, other area vineyards have been and will be exposed to the differing systems they might not otherwise be familiar with, especially the Scott-Henry and also the Modified Geneva Double Curtain of my own design. They will be able to visualize the planning and training processes that went into the systems used in the trial project.

The four training systems are: TWC-Top Wire (High Wire) Cordon, VSP-Vertical Shoot Positioned (Mid Wire Cordon),Mod-GDC - Modified Geneva Double Curtain and Scott-Henry. See the next section for further information. Also, see complete report uploaded at the end of this report for more illustrations of training methods.

It was the goal of this to quantify differences in both yield and quality of the fruit obtained by pairing up varieties with certain training systems to maximize yield and quality. The vine yields were recorded per vine in pounds. The quality was measured through sugar(brix), pH, and TA (total acidity). Generally the higher the sugar and pH and lower the TA, the better the quality of the grapes.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Anita Deming
  • Kevin Iungerman
  • Tim Martinson
  • Justine Vanden Heuvel


Materials and methods:

The project began by examining the vines in the early spring for winter bud damage. The temperatures during the winter of 2011-2012 were fairly typical of a normal winter. Normal lows have been in the -10 to -12F range and this year we reached -12F during the coldest event. All the varieties, Petite Amie, St. Pepin, Marquette and Minnesota 1200 had very good bud survival with only limited minor bud damage. Work began in the vineyard doing preliminary dormant season vine pruning keeping in mind the training systems. The number of retained nodes (buds) was based on making diagonal bud cuts to determine bud mortality rates. The desired retained nodes were set at a base of 5 nodes per foot of running canopy for all varieties. The Modified GDC and Scott Henry have double the canopy of the two single wire systems of TWC and VSP, therefore the number of buds was approximately double. The retained nodes were counted and recorded after pruning. The weight of the pruned one year old canes was also recorded for future reference.

Shortly after spring pruning, the training systems were established. These systems include: TWC - Top Wire (High Wire) Cordon, VSP - Vertical Shoot Positioned (Mid Wire Cordon, Mod GDC - Modified Geneva Double Curtain and Scott-Henry. There are 12 rows in the trial split equally between these 4 systems giving 3 repetitions of each. All four varieties of grapes are in each row with 9 vines of each split between 3 panels of grapes (the 3 vines between posts). See the Vineyard Layout pdf file above for clarification.

In Season Pruning and Training

As the growing season progressed the vines were trained and maintained to the appropriate training system.

Vertical Shoot Positioning - VSP
The VSP shoots were trained between the catch wires. By using movable catch wires, trapping the shoots between the wires is assisted. Before much growth, the wires are moved down to the lower clips. As the majority of shoots gets longer than the space between the wires (10-12 inches), the catch wires are moved back up to the clip above. This is done in a sweeping motion and the majority of shoots is caught up and brought upright. The process is repeated until the shoots reach the top a few weeks later. As the shoots grew over the top wire by a few feet, they were hedged off to just above the top wire.

Top Wire Cordon - TWC
The Top Wire Cordon (TWC) vines were kept tied to the top wire and the new shoots were trained downward and “combed” to open the canopy up. If the vines touched the ground as above, they were “skirted” back.

Scott Henry
The Scott Henry system is a double fruiting wire system and is similar to the Vertical Shoot Positioned System using the same wire layout. With it the first set of catch wires uses one wire as the upper fruiting wire for a cordon. The normal VSP fruiting wire (mid-wire) is used as the lower fruiting wire. With this system the upper wires shoots are combed upwards and the lower fruiting wire shoots are combed downwards to give the appearance of the following picture.

Modified Geneva Double Curtain- Mod GDC
The Mod GDC System uses a special angled bracket to provide separation of the two fruiting wires. The northern fruiting wire is higher than the southern wire so that the foliage of the upper wire does not shade the fruit on the lower wire. Ideally during the growing season the shoots are all combed downward between the adjacent catch wires. For this trial there was minimal combing done so the study would only reflect the difference attributable to the type of training and not the amount of combing. In a normal operation the combing would help eliminate shading further of the clusters and lead to riper fruit sooner with somewhat higher sugar levels.
Pictures were taken as the year progressed to help document the results of these operations.

Bird and Wildlife Deterrent

This year we implemented a totally enclosing netting system over each row to try and keep the birds and small mammals out of the vines. In the past we have lost some grapes to them so we installed the netting in hopes of keeping them out. The netting is a 14 foot wide net draped over the top of the vines and attached at the bottom to fully enclose the vines. The net is just stretched from one row to the next without cutting and is kept in full lengths of a couple thousand feet. The system worked good on the birds, but was not effective for keeping the raccoons and skunks out. We purchased 6 Live Traps to catch as many as quickly as we could and within a few days had caught nine raccoons and one skunk.

Sampling and Testing

Samples were taken of the fruit beginning in Mid-August to monitor ripening and potential differences in the fruit quality. Three samples were taken for each treatment approximately ten days apart. The final sample was taken at harvest to gather the final fruit quality sample. One hundred grapes were taken randomly from each variety for a representative sample and grape berry average weight. Each sampling period took readings of fourty-eight (48) individual samples. All samples tested the sugar (brix), acid (pH) and all but the first the TA (titratable acidity). All the samples were recorded in a spreadsheet as part of the final results and is available. Notes were also taken of fruit quality and canopy density as they became apparent.

The samples were first weighed in grams and divided by 100 to provide the average grape berry weight. The sample berries were crushed and the juice extracted for testing. The brix was measured using a handheld refractometer. The pH was measured using a portable electronic pH meter after calibrating. The TA was measured using a Vinmetrica 200 meter.


Each variety of grapes was all harvested the same day when possible so the results would be consistent. The Mn 1200 was harvested on September 11, 2012. Some of the grapes had been cleaned off the vines by a lot of raccoons before we could trap them. The St. Pepin was harvested September 14, 2012 with part of the crop ravaged by the racoons. The Petite Amie needed to be harvested on September 14, 2012. The last variety, Marquette was harvested on September 16, 2012. In future studies and in real life, the grapes would be harvested at their prime condition but we needed to rush some of them to beat the raccoons to the crop. A total of nine raccoons and one skunk were trapped in live traps.

Every vine of every treatment was picked into its own grape lug. They were individually weighed in pounds to the tenth pound and recorded after adjusting tare to zero for the weight of the lugs. As the vines were picked, the harvested clusters were counted and recorded. These two measurements allowed for average vine and cluster weights for each treatment. It also makes it possible to give acre equivalent yields based on vine and row spacing. To adjust for grapes lost to the coons, the bare clusters were counted and added to the total clusters after the average cluster weight was calculated. This allowed the harvest weight that would have occurred without the wildlife damage. Actual total and calculated totals were recorded.

Research results and discussion:

This trial gathered a lot of information in 2012 and records a lot of very useful data. Bud counts were recorded along with pruning weights which helps determine the amount of buds needed to attain a desired crop. Yields were recorded as was the juice quality of each variety using all four different training systems. This information indicates it is indeed possible to influence and increase the quality of wine grapes through training systems. I will list the information here in a condensed format for the results of the trial. After that I will try to interpret some of these results and what it can mean. Like any other study, the validity of the data would be enhanced with further testing in future years.


Marquette is a very vigorous red variety of wine grapes. As grown on a single fruiting wire system (Top Wire Cordon and Vertical Shoot Positioned) the canopy got very dense with crowded, shaded clusters. This takes more time spent in training these systems over the double fruiting wire systems (Modified Geneva Double curtain and Scott-Henry). I suspect that the extra crop load of the Mod GDC and S-H help to balance the shoot vigor, thus keeping the canopy more compact and open. Shoot length in the two double fruiting systems average 4-5 feet each where the single fruiting wire systems grow around 6-9 feet each forcing extra hedging and skirting.

Following is a summary of comparative treatments:


System-----Avg Yield lbs-----Tons/Acre-----brix-----pH-----TA
Mod GDC----27.45----------------9.97-------20.27----3.30---11.2

For Marquette it is my feeling that the Mod GDC provided much superior results over the other systems. Yield was significantly the highest over all the others while sugars were similar and acid levels were the lowest with Mod GDC. The closest competitor was TWC, but that had lower sugars and higher acid numbers, indicating it was over-cropped for the amount of canopy. VSP is a commonly recommended training system for Marquette, but in this case it just did not yield sufficient crop and the sugar levels were marginally higher. Scott-Henry yielded a bit more crop but not as high as either TWC or Mod GDC while the acid levels were moderate, but sugars were low.

Minnesota 1200

Minnesota 1200 is a red small fruited, small clustered variety with moderate vigor for the cold climate growing areas. In order to try to affect the vine vigor a very high number of clusters needs to be retained, but that adversely affects the cluster size. Cluster numbers should therefore be adjusted to provide a lower number of clusters to increase overall size and retain the quality. Generally best fruit and yield is obtained by limiting clusters per shoot to under 2.

Following is a summary of comparative treatments:

Mn 1200

System-----Avg Yield lbs-----Tons/Acre-----brix------pH------TA
Mod GDC-----13.74-------------4.99---------21.40-----3.27----7.9

In the trial it was found that VSP does not work well for this variety. Even by limiting number of shoots and clusters to keep crowding down, the cluster size increase is just not enough to justify the small yield. Even the higher yield of Mod GDC provided better fruit quality numbers than VSP did. With this variety any of the other systems provided a much superior result over VSP.

St Pepin

St Pepin is a representative higher vigor cold climate white wine grape. The vigor allowed the vines to completely fill the trellis on all four training systems. The shoot length was manageable over all training systems without a lot of hedging or skirting, except with the VSP where the shoots were hedged twice. Yield was lowest on the VSP, but sugar and acid were best with the VSP. The Modified GDC yielded the highest by far and sugar was average over the 4 systems while acid was moderate and very workable in the winery. TWC had the second highest yield and second highest sugar levels. Either TWC or Mod GDC are very acceptable systems for St. Pepin. The Mod GDC gets a slight advantage producing 130% more fruit of almost as good of quality.

St. Pepin

System-----Avg Yield lbs-----Tons/Acre-----brix-----pH------TA
Mod GDC----23.61-------------8.57----------18.07----3.11----8.2

Petite Amie

Petite Amie is an aromatic white grape with somewhat low vigor growth. As a result the single row training systems (Top wire Cordon and Vertical Shoot Positioned) filled out well on the wires while the double fruiting systems (Mod Geneva Double Curtain and Scott-Henry) did not fill the wires to potential. This affected yields as the amount of bearing canopy was almost equal over all the systems instead of the higher amount you would expect from the double fruiting wires. Juice composition was similar overall all training systems with only minor differences.

Overall it appears that the results are not up to full potential because the canopy was not filled for the double fruiting wire systems (even the TWC had less canopy because the vines struggled to reach the fruiting wire). At this time it is inconclusive if the yield will ever increase over the single fruiting wire systems with the additional bearing canopy. In the early years, it does not make a significant difference in yield by choosing one training system over another.

Petite Amie

System------Avg Yield lbs-----Tons/Acre-----brix-----pH------TA
Mod GDC------14.59--------------5.30--------18.27----3.26----6.4

Research conclusions:

The project has accomplished a few positive things and as such should lead to increased sustainability of these cold hardy grapes in the making of wine.

First direct accomplishment was to open up both growers and researchers eyes to what is possible by matching grape varieties with certain training systems. Both onsite visits by both growers and researchers and online exposure has shown them what was accomplished here. Several growers inquired about the Modified GDC system and plan on trying it out in their vineyards. The Northern Grapes Project (a multi-state project involving a number of universities) has implemented smaller research trials in a number of vineyards to compare some training systems on several varieties.

Secondly a number of growers are adopting some training systems to similar varieties as in my project to see if they can also attain higher yields.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

I see the outreach part of this project as a continuing process and hope to continue the dissemination of the results for the next year or more. For 2012 the outreach consisted of several methods of dissemination.

Onsite Field Meetings.

A tour and field meeting was held at the vineyard in early May 2012 and was well attended by a number of local vineyard owners and other grape enthusiasts from NY, Vermont and Quebec. It was held in conjuction with Lake Champlain Wines (Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association).

An overall summary of the project was given. The meeting covered the trial and its layout. We conducted a walking tour and included a discussion of what was being done, studied and compared. Kevin Ingerman and myself talked about the training systems and how to prune for each of them. After demonstrating these to the attendees, we invited them to try it for themselves on the different systems.

In August 2012 there was another field meeting attended by a number of Cornell researchers and private growers. The growing grapes were show to the attendees and noted the differing yields on the different training systems. Visible differences in canopy density, disease pressure and crop response were noted. I discussed how these things can lead to increased sustainability by influencing pesticide requirement and crop returns.

In 2012 I had a number of volunteers that showed up to help with harvest in the larger vineyard. A number of them are growers with their own vineyards, so I showed them the different Training Systems and Canopy Management treatments of this trial. Again they expressed an interest in the systems and asked to be sent the final data.

The website for the vineyard has a research page where growers can go and learn more about this project, both in previous years and the current year. The link to this is
A summary of this study is being prepared and will be available to all interested as either printed material or in an Excel Spreadsheet format at the website.

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

In general it is certainly possible to increase the value of the wine grapes both through increased yields and improved quality. Furthermore net farm income could be increased by getting higher returns for the crop along with diminished labor requirement. Some of the treatments required substantially less labor input during the growing season as well as harvest labor. In this study, the harvest time was not tracked per vine. Possibly that should be included in a future study.

This project has the potential to increase overall yields of cold climate grapes. It has been observed that double or more yield can be attained by properly matching the growth vigor of a variety with a particular training system. The increased yield will translate into higher income to the grower no matter if he sells the grapes or converts that higher yield to additional wine.

Future Recommendations

On the basis of this project I would recommend cautious optimism of these results and consider implementing some of the methods.I would like to recommend further study of this project. The results are very encouraging and can have large impacts on the income and profit from these grapes. Additional years of data collection will enhance the data collected from this trial. Studies might be done involving the amount of labor required to maintain each system at it's optimum. Additional varieties could be studied in the future and even additional training system styles could be compared.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.