Better Wine Grape Quality using Combined Vine Training and Canopy Management - Phase Two

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2010: $11,560.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Richard Lamoy
Hid-In-Pines Vineyard


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, foliar feeding, application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, value added, agritourism
  • Pest Management: chemical control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, physical control, cultivation, precision herbicide use, smother crops
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Up until recent years there were few wine grape varieties available to withstand our cold Northeast climate that were capable of making good wine. With the development of cold hardy hybrid wine grape varieties that has changed. The Northeast has been seeing increasing interest in growing these hybrid wine grapes, but the quality of the grapes grown has typically been low. The wine made from the low quality grapes along with low yields has discouraged growers from expanding and stalled development of a viable wine industry. In 2005 the Willsboro Cold Hardy Grape Trial of NY was established with the goal of helping growers from the Northeast determine which varieties were better suited to survive this environment. As a volunteer with the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association I have helped the CCE NENYF program maintain and harvest grapes at the site gaining hands on experience with the more cold hardy hybrid wine grapes. This summer I continued as the Horticultural Assistant for the trial and gained valuable contacts and experience through personnel from Extension and the Cornell Experiment Station. The trial helped introduce new varieties to the Northeast, but work remains to be done with improving quality with those varieties. Improved quality and yield of select cold hardy hybrid grapes could help spur further development of the wine grape industry in the Northeast. After speaking with other members of the Lake Champlain Grape Grower’s Association I learned that many who have tried growing grapes are of the belief that yields and quality are too low for making a good wine. Through selecting a properly matched training method and canopy management system the quality may be improved and help dispel the notion that you can’t make good wine from the grapes grown in the region. I look to continue the work begun this past year with the NE SARE Grant FNE09-662 through data collection to verify the results obtained and give these preliminary results more credence. The number one comment I received this year from those I spoke with about the results was “Those are interesting results, but it was only one year with a very limited test plot.” By continuing the study and increasing the reps where I can, I look toward increasing the validaty of the information. If the data collected further substantiates this year’s results, many growers would gladly adopt the process. I will continue measuring differences between systems for quality, quantity and labor involved so that a profitable crop of wine grapes may be harvested and turned into more valuable product in the form of quality wine.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The purpose of my project is to study the feasibility of increasing yield and quality of cold hardy hybrid wine grapes through a system of training methods and canopy management for the varieties grown. This will utilize hybrid wine grape varieties well suited to the Northeast. This project will build upon information gathered this past year using the existing vineyard on the farm for the study. Two training methods will be used for each variety and the existing trellising adjusted to accommodate those methods for three (3) varieties (Frontenac, Leon Millot and LaCrosse). Frontenac and Leon Millot will be trained to both a Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) and a 4-Arm Kniffen system. The LaCrosse will be trained to a more variety appropriate TWC (Top Wire Cordon) and 4-Arm Kniffen system. This past year within those rows each training method included 3 panels of four vines each to compare three canopy management styles. Those managements will include Shoot Thinning, Cluster Thinning and a Control. This current year’s application looks to add two additional replications of the Frontenac vines since this variety demonstrated the greatest potential differences. This will include 24 vines each of Leon Millot and LaCrosse and 72 vines of Frontenac. The additional replications will increase the statistical reliability for the Frontenac which is the most widely grown cold hardy grape variety of those in this trial.

    Summary of the Systems- Leon Millot and Frontenac
    4-Arm Kniffen Training with cluster thinning and leaf pulling
    4-Arm Kniffen Training with shoot thinning and leaf pulling
    4-Arm Kniffen Training with leaf pulling only (Control)

    VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) with cluster thinning and leaf pulling
    VSP with shoot thinning and leaf pulling
    VSP with leaf pulling only (Control)

    4-Arm Kniffen Training with cluster thinning and leaf pulling
    4-Arm Kniffen Training with shoot thinning and leaf pulling
    4-Arm Kniffen Training with leaf pulling only (Control)

    TWC (Top Wire Cordon) with cluster thinning and leaf pulling
    TWC with shoot thinning and leaf pulling
    TWC with leaf pulling only (Control)

    All grapes will be monitored for proper growth and development during the growing season and cultural methods (sprays and weed control) will be as close as possible. Either cluster thinning or shoot thinning will take place depending on the panel. Leaf pulling will be done equally on both panels. These can be compared to the control panels which will only receive leaf pulling and necessary hedging or skirting). This leaf pulling will keep the canopy more open, minimizing disease pressure and lessening required sprays, thus having less environmental impact. A possible future study could measure the differences in needed spraying to afford adequate disease and insect control between the systems. The ripeness will be monitored by a combination of brix (to measure soluble solids), pH, and TA (total acidity). Electronic testers will be used for measuring the pH and TA (acids) at the vineyard. Maximizing return and quality demands that results of any testing be available quickly. When optimal ripeness and quality is reached, the grapes will be harvested by variety and all grapes weighed and recorded on a per vine basis along with a cluster count. This weight and cluster count information is useful in determining the number of retained buds at subsequent dormant pruning. This process was used this year with FNE09-662 and was very useful in putting values to the yields and quality obtained for comparative and analytical purposes.

    This study is not fully replicated because of current layout limitations of the vineyard but will be improved this coming year by adding two more replications of Frontenac. It is my goal to collect useful data to be shared with others through in field meetings, flyers and posting to an online forum. Since the data and procedures looked so VERY promising this past season with FNE09-662, the project is seeking renewal with this current grant application. I planted an additional trial vineyard in 2009 for a future study comparing 4 cold hardy varieties- 2 reds and 2 whites. Though not part of the current data collection of the project, I will make this additional planting available for demonstration of planning, maintenance and initial training of hybrid grape vines to others at the in-field meetings. This year trellis training systems will be put in place and the vines trained to them. This will give a great 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 will be four training systems implemented for each variety with three replications of each. There will be two single fruiting wire (either cane or cordon) systems and two split – two fruiting wire systems. By demonstrating these, other area farmers will be exposed to the differing systems they might not be familiar with. They will be able to visualize the planning and training processes that went into the systems used in the trial project.

    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.