In the Vineyard

Decision time for pruning

Spur or cane? It’s always a gamble to second- guess the number of buds and clusters to retain after a late spring. By Gary Strachan


h yes, the sky is blue, the birds are back,and the shears are sharp. What an idyllic time of year, even though it’s a few weeks later than average.

It was a long, cold winter and we moaned about the late spring. What happens next? I guess it’s time to consider remedial vineyard management.

I typically prefer a cane-pruned vineyard ahead of a spur-pruned, but I always have in the back of my mind that there must be a way to make spur- pruned vines perform better. Spur pruning is much simpler to manage with untrained labour. The buds retained in a short spur are the buds formed during the previous spring or early summer and thus are not as fully formed as the buds formed later in the summer on a full cane. Since spur- pruned vines always push a few secondary canes and canes from non fruiting basal buds, the vines have to be shoot-thinned in early summer, so why not leave a longer cane and discard the lowest shoots growing from the longer spur?

It’s always a gamble to second-guess the number of buds and clusters to retain after a late spring. Part of this will depend on how well your grape variety is matched to your site.

If you typically run the risk of fall frost before you harvest, then you risk an immature crop if you don’t thin more aggressively than usual during a late spring. A late spring could make the

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2017 25 GARY STRACHAN

Cane-pruned shoots (top photo) vs spur-pruned shoots. The spur-pruned shoots have bark on the horizontal cordon and have a larger number of shoots per metre than can pruned shoots.

difference between producing a red wine or rose this year. Leave the extra buds and make a blanc de noir? It might be a good idea to check with your winemaker before you make the shoot thinning decision. He/she may have something else in mind for your grapes. Shoot thinning isn’t the only way to affect harvest quality. Berry composition is affected by weather, irrigation, and fertility as well as crop size. All of the factors that affect vine vigour work together with yield to produce quality that can range from

totally unacceptable to vintage-of-the century-great.

A late spring may be followed by a picture perfect summer that produces a wonderful crop. This can happen especially in a vineyard planted with early season varieties that ripen in early September in a normal year. If a late spring delays maturation by a few weeks, the quality may be improved by the extended cool development time. Nothing is ever easy, is it?

If you want to hedge your bets, you can be conservative in your shoot

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