Cold climate grapes: Increased sustainability through improved yield and quality
The purpose of my 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. This will utilize 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 is 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 www.hipvineyard.com . Since the data and procedures were so promising those two seasons with FNE09-662 and FNE10-691, the project is seeking further funding with this current grant application. 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). This past year the trellis training systems were put in place and the vines trained to them. This provides 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 are 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 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: Top Wire (High Wire) Cordon – TWC, Vertical Shoot Positioned (Mid Wire Cordon) – VSP, Modified Geneva Double Curtain – MGDC and Scott-Henry.
All four of the varieties are included in each row. There are three vines per panel between posts set 20 feet apart (vine spacing 6.66 feet), with three panel repetitions in each row. The rows are set at 9 feet apart. The 4 training systems are next to each other and the whole layout is repeated three times.
It was determined that our target number of 5 buds per foot of canopy would be used so all vines were dormant pruned to that number. All prunings of the previous years growth was collected and weighed per vine and then recorded. During the growing season all the vines were monitored for proper growth and development during the growing season by myself and my assistant Richard Lamoy, Jr.. Each repetitions was trained to its appropriate training system but otherwise were handled the same way. Leaf pulling was be done by me and my field assistant to open the canopy up and help reduce fungal pressure and needed sprays, thus having less environmental impact.
The time needed to implement the different training systems was roughly logged for the various operations needed for the particular system. The ripeness was monitored by a combination of brix (to measure soluble solids), pH, and TA (total acidity). Samples of 100 grape berries were collected by a Richard Jr. or myself from each repetition of each variety (12 rows x 4 varieties= 48 samples) every week to 10 days beginning mid to late August through picking in September. This provided 4 sample collection periods. The 100 grape samples were collected in zip lock type bags, crushed and used for samples. Prior to crushing, the samples were weighed to provide average grape berry weight.
Maximizing return and quality demands that results of any testing be available quickly so on-farm testing was used. Electronic testers were used for measuring the pH and TA (acids) at the vineyard. Brix (soluble solids/sugars) were measured with a refractometer. The testing on the samples was performed by Richard Lamoy, Sr.. When optimal ripeness and quality were reached, the grapes were 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 these past years with FNE09-662 and FNE10-691 and was very useful in putting values to the yields and quality obtained for comparative and analytical purposes.
By measuring and recording results for each variety trained to the four different systems, the best training system or systems can be determined for each grape type. This assumes that there will be a “best method or system” for each type, such as low vigor white wine grape. This may or may not be the case and is what this training system trial will help to determine.
The results of the trial have been most encouraging this year. Three of the varieties- St. Pepin, Mn 1200 and Marquette filled out all of the training systems well. The slowest growing, lowest vigor variety Petite Amie struggled to fill out the double fruiting zone system Modified Geneva Double Curtain but filled out the others alright. In general, the VSP and Scott-Henry systems required the most labor for training into the catch wires and later hedgings to keep the individual shoot lengths in the desired size range.
The TWC and Modified Geneva Double Curtain systems generally provided more open canopy with much less labor. The Mod GDC had much improved yields with all varieties except the Petite Amie. The most striking results were with the Marquette vines. With Marquette the Mod GDC system yielded close to 10 tons per acre equivalent, TWC yielded 7.75 tons/acre, Scott –Henry came in at 5 tons/acre and the VSP yielded 3.75 tons per acre. This was the average over 3 repetitions.
Sugar levels did not vary significantly, but were highest in the low yield VSP. Acid levels were better in the higher yielding systems. The weather this season was fairly representative of a “normal” year, although it was just a bit drier and warmer than average. The depth of data collected in this trial is so great that the Final Report for this project will come in early 2013.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The results from this project have shown that it may indeed be possible to increase the yield and quality of the grapes and therefore wine by using appropriate training systems matched to the vigor of the variety. I am using this information to match the new vineyard acreage to the desired training system for the vigor of the vine and soil. The farm planted an additional 4 acres of vineyard this year with 5 varieties of grapes. I have not yet put in the trellis so I can match the training system to the vigor type of each variety.
There was a joint pruning demonstration in the trial vineyard in April this year between Richard Lamoy and one of the extension advisors, Kevin Iungerman of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Northeast Fruit program. The 20 or so attendees were given basic information on each of the involved training systems and were shown how to prune for each of them. A short hands on session was used where most of the participants got to prune the vines appropriately for each system. In August a field session was held showing attendees the progress of the vines in the trial setting. Again Kevin Iungerman assisted with this meeting.
During sample collection time Dr. Tim Martinson assisted with showing some types of graphs that could be used to summarize the data collected and this will be used in the final report. Mr. Martinson included preliminary sample results in the Northern Grapes blog for upstate. More publications, etc will be summarized in the final report.
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