Cold climate grapes: Determining an appropriate training system for improved yield

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,935.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Richard Lamoy
Hid-In-Pines Vineyard

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, application rate management
  • Education and Training: display, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Pest Management: chemical control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, precision herbicide use, prevention
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Wines made in the colder regions of the Northeast have been unprofitable due to low yield and questionable grape quality. 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 climate hybrid wine grape varieties from the University of Minnesota and other breeders that is changing. However when these breeders release these new grapes, they are not released with any recommendations to guide growers towards appropriate viticultural practices for optimizing yield and quality. The Northeast and other cold climate states have been seeing increasing interest in growing these hybrid wine grapes, but the quality and yield of the grapes grown has typically been on the low side. The lower quality of the wine made from these grapes along with low yields has discouraged growers from expanding and stalled development of a viable wine industry.

    We now have multiple varieties of cold climate grapes available for use in the Northeast and other cold climate areas but little work has been done in studying the cultural practice of using the proper training systems in enhancing those varieties. In older hybrid wine grape cultivars, research has repeatedly demonstrated that both high yields and high quality can be simultaneously obtained. Through selecting a properly matched training system to these new cold climate varieties the quality and yields might be improved and allow for profitable use of these grapes for wine. This has the potential to be adopted in many cold climate areas of the Northeast such as in the Thousand Islands, Champlain Valley and Capital District regions of New York, all of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Other areas of the country such as Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska and other colder areas could also adopt these practices.

    I look to build on the work begun with my previous NE SARE Grants, FNE09-662, FNE10-691 and FNE-754. Those studies showed differences in yield and quality from using different training systems and canopy management. By continuing the study with slightly altered focus I look forward to generating additional information specific to the new varieties included (Petite Amie, St. Pepin, Marquette and Mn1200). If the data collected further substantiates the results of the last several years, many growers might potentially adopt these training systems, which may enhance the economic viability of wine grape production in cooler regions. I have had contact with vineyard growers from Maine to as far away as Missouri and South Dakota expressing interest in my methods and results so far.

    I will continue measuring differences between systems for quality, yield and labor involved so that a profitable crop of wine grapes may be harvested and turned into the more valuable quality wine. This measurement and data collection is very important for growers to have confidence in the methods used for a trial or adoption in their own vineyards.

    Due to the harsh climate of the Northeast the quality and yield of cold climate hybrid wine grapes often suffers, limiting their value for quality wine. The aim of this project is increasing yields for improved vineyard sustainability. This project seeks to investigate which training systems may be best suited to raise yields and quality. Since vigor of the variety may influence this, I seek to implement this trial using two examples of low to medium vigor varieties along with two of medium to high vigor varieties. This study will utilize a white variety and a red variety of these two vine vigor types, on four different training systems with three repetitions of 9 vines each. Two systems will use a single canopy system and two will use a double canopy system. This project involves 432 vines using a vineyard block specifically planted in 2009 in anticipation of this proposed study. Data collection will be for an additional year (in year 6 of the block) to build on the present data collection from the previous trial FNE12-754. If results are similar to past years’ harvests, the information has the potential to vastly increase profitability and ultimately sustainability of vineyards in this region. During the project I will share the progress and findings through two demonstration meetings as well as passing on the information to Cooperative Extension Personnel for use at other meetings and sharing information online.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    The intent 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 will build upon information gathered in the past grants (2009, 2010 and 2012) using the existing vineyard on the farm for the study. It is my goal to collect useful data to be shared with others through field meetings, flyers and posting to an online forum and my vineyard website . The data collected in the 2012 grant FNE12-754 was very promising so this new project is seeking further funding with this current application to continue the data collection. Previously I planted an additional trial vineyard in 2009 anticipating the 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 past years 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 demonstrating the best practices for each training system that went into the systems used in the trial project. As part of this grant I look to create a pamphlet to hand out covering planning and establishing these four training systems.

    Summary of the Systems-

    1) Single Canopy
    A) Top Wire (High Wire) Cordon - TWC
    B) Vertical Shoot Positioned (Mid Wire Cordon) - VSP

    2) Double-Split Canopy
    A) Modified Geneva Double Curtain - MGDC
    B) 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 adjacent and the whole layout is repeated three times. Please see the attached sheet showing the layout for a more clear understanding of this.

    Prior to the growing season the vines will be assessed by myself and the field technician for winter bud damage. A target number of buds will be determined and all the vines pruned. Following growth commencing the vines will be trained to their assigned training system. All grapes will be monitored for proper growth and development during the growing season by me and cultural methods (sprays and weed control) will be as close as possible. If warranted shoot thinning will be done to reach target number of clusters (as determined by myself and Dr. Justine Vanden Heuvel). All repetitions will be handled the same way. New in this project the vines will all be trained and maintained to “best practices” for each system to maximize quality and demonstrate to others how each should appear. Leaf pulling and some shoot thinning will be done by me and the 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 will be logged for the various operations needed for the particular system. A log will be kept for each system of each variety.

    The ripeness will be monitored by a combination of brix (to measure soluble solids), pH, and TA (total acidity). Samples of 100 grape berries will be collected by a field assistant 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. This will provide 3-4 sample collection periods. The 100 grape samples will be collected in zip lock type bags, crushed and used for samples. Prior to crushing, the samples will be weighed to provide average grape berry weight.

    Maximizing return and quality demands that results of any testing be available quickly so on-farm testing will be used. Electronic testers will be used for measuring the pH and TA (acids) at the vineyard. Brix (soluble solids/sugars) will be measured with a refractometer. I or the assistant will perform the testing on the samples. 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 these past years with FNE09-662, FNE10-691 and FNE12-754 and was very useful for assigning values to the yields and quality obtained for comparative and analytical purposes. This process was also used in the Willsboro Cold Hardy Grape Trial and the information will be shared through newsletters and the field pruning educational seminars.

    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.

    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.