What happens when the excitement of harvest is over and winter pruning is still months away?

Even though after COVID-19 two seasons we would all like to go on an extended holiday land-based business can’t stop just as the seasons do not stop.

Under review, we have several gravel soil blocks that have produced very light crops, some of that is poor flowering from rainfall during this critical phase some of the issues are nutrition. We cannot dial back the clock so looking forward to next season we have been applying foliar feed to help the vines relocate carbohydrates from the leaves back down to the roots for storage to start v2023.

Modern harvesters leave vines in great shape after picking the grapes, they use to behave like giant food processors, damaging foliage, and canes. Now with super talented operators running our harvest crews, you can only tell its been picked by the fact the fruit has gone.

This means we can irrigate, feed, and prepare the vine to shut down in its own good time. This does not only mean relocating carbs to the roots, its also about the canes hardening off properly. Because already in those canes are the buds and flowers for next season. Therefore spring frosts are so damaging as they can take out two seasons at once.

While reviewing we look at the bud numbers we pruned to last year (eg how many buds on how many canes resulted in ‘What’ crop level) and make the decisions for this coming season’s pruning.  Spreadsheets and more spreadsheets!

Major changes are few really, those big decisions like adding an extra cane or switching from cane prune to spur prune don’t happen a lot.

The big blip on our radar this offseason is redevelopment. 22-year-old Merlot vines coming out and Sauvignon Blanc going in. This is a big job, wires and irrigation all have to be removed and recycled. Posts are all pulled and sold as farm fencing. Strainer posts removed and stored for re-use.

New irrigation sub-mains go in the ground. Why new? Because old vineyards were planted without GPS and the actual row width varies, I mean vary a lot! A new vineyard will be planted and posted with the aid of GPS so nothing old will line up with the new.

Early spring once the block has been cultivated several times we will replant, reinstall new steel posts, and put in subterranean irrigation lines. This saves water (about 25% less water) it does not require a wire to hang on and does not require labour to attach it to a wire or maintain it from hare and mechanical damage. Out of sight out of mind, sort of.

Steel v wood posts is an internal debate for me.

Steel allows for super easy installation, light, and easy to move around in packs of 182. There is nearly zero maintenance from broken posts at harvest time. Up to 24 clips per post can be installed by anyone of any age or body strength. The canopy that grows on steel posts is thin and compact which helps reduce disease potential. BUT they are steel and that takes a lot of energy to produce, and steel is super expensive now.

Wood posts are heavy, the bundles require a very large forklift or you have to move around singles posts by hand. They are harder to knock in the ground.  They break, every year you have to replace ones broken at harvest. The clips have to be hammered in by hand, and that is hard work, repeated thousands of times, it’s not a job everyone can do.  Wood prices have been relatively stable and wooden posts far cheaper than steel.  Wooden posts grow on trees, the raw materials produce oxygen. The elephant in the room is wooden posts that have to be treated so they don’t rot. Yes, the treatments in modern posts are a lot safer and cleaner than they use to be but there is no getting away from the chemical groups used. Wooden post productions carbon footprint is so much smaller than steel.

Why Sauvignon Blanc? Well, that’s a whole different post I will have to do later, but let’s just say that 86.3% of all wine exported from NZ is Sauvignon Blanc! ‘Mic drop, walk off stage.’


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