Before diving into the most suitable vineyard management practices, let’s talk about what it involves. Vineyards need great care, and their management includes all the practices conducted within the vineyard to maintain its resources and grow grapes. This is why there are several studies and research conducted on proper vineyard management techniques. Along with grape production techniques, vineyard management practices influence grape and wine quality to a great extent too.
There are many ways to approach these management practices: organic, sustainable, dry-farmed, till, minimum till, no-till, biodynamic, irrigated, conventional, etc. Therefore, it will be great if you thoroughly research the best vineyard management practices before beginning cultivation.
Best Vineyard Management Techniques
The quality of grapes largely depends on the vineyard management practices followed. Vineyards are formed as units of agricultural production of grapes. As a vineyard grower or owner, you need to know the fundamentals of good vineyard management for a better yield. We list some of the best vineyard management techniques here:
Understanding the Cycle of Vine Growth
It’s impossible to make a stately and beautiful piece of art without understanding its basics. Similarly, being aware of the fundamentals of your practice is crucial if you want to create something elegant and striking.
There are two ways of understanding the growth cycle. If you prefer a structured approach, consult resources such as online guides and even textbooks to understand vineyard management techniques—from how grapes grow to what kind of fertilizer typically works best in the environment around your vines.
The other method is more hands-on—getting involved in a project by working directly with a living vineyard system for many years and gaining an intuitive sense of the entire system’s rhythm. When should root growth occur? And if so, when should you cut it back? Should you water at the root level during flowering or just after the fruit has been pollinated?
Both methods require individual attention to fulfil their purpose. But perhaps, both can work well together as a big-picture strategy. You can make detailed notes on how things have grown throughout the year in addition to following an online guide. This way, your following produce will be much better from the learnings of the past year.
Being Time Conscious
There is a quote that goes around in vineyard farming, “You are better off doing an imperfect job on time than a flawless job late.”
There is a very thin line between being proud of your success and being surprised by failure. Thus, you should monitor the progress of every vine you produce by constantly observing its characteristics.
For instance, shoot thinning is much easier and less expensive when shoots are 4-10 inches long than thinning when the shoots are taller. Usually, the process takes less time, and it is also much less expensive. You’ll notice that early shoot thinning also reduces the competition for internal resources between the vines. It results in greater growth invigoration, uniform elongation, and increased fruit set in the vines.
Similarly, removing the leaves right after the blooming period will lead to more efficient disease control. If you do it correctly, cluster thinning (removal of grape clusters or flowers) of wine grapes even before the fruit has developed will be more effective in ripening the grapes. It protects their shape and makes them healthier compared to post-fruit set cluster thinning.
Using the Right Equipment
Commercial vineyards use machinery to get the job done quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Small family-owned vineyards often don’t have enough money to invest in such equipment. If you fall into the latter category, you may try using hand-powered machines such as push mowers and backpack sprayers.
While it might seem appealing (because you can then cultivate on a small budget), this kind of equipment does not produce ideal results. Combining large machines with smaller hand-powered tools for fertilizing or pruning may provide optimum results. However, if you farm an acre or more, make sure you consider all your options before investing in heavy machinery. They may not be necessary!
In general, make sure you have everything you need to keep your vines in good condition. One tool most vineyards use is a spray bottle. You can fill this bottle with a chemical to protect insects or water from helping control the humidity within the vineyard. If you choose to set up bird nets, you must support the vines above so that birds don’t chew away at the leaves. In most cases, where a net is placed, there’s usually a trimmer beneath. It is explicitly designed to cut any excess nets from above while efficiently trimming back long vines to keep them healthy and upright while they grow. These items are readily available nowadays, making it easier than ever to maintain your grape-growing operation without breaking the bank!
Deciding the Approach
If you want to ensure that the produce is excellent, you must follow a suitable approach to grow grapes. There are different approaches for growing grapes, such as sustainable, dry-farmed, till, no-till, minimum-till, etc.
- Sustainable vineyard practices refer to an environmentally friendly approach to vineyard management. Practices such as drip irrigation and cover crops are also included.
- Dry farmed vineyard practices include crop production during the dry season without supplemental irrigation. It depends on moisture that is already held in soil from the rains.
- Biodynamic methods are very similar to organic farming, but they encompass Rudolf Steiner’s various ideas, emphasizing the mystical and spiritual perspectives of soil fertility and plant growth.
- The tillage approach includes three types of tillage methods—till, minimum-till-, and no-till-. The No-till- method implies zero disturbance to the soil and decreases soil erosion, while the minimum-till method refers to minimum soil disturbance for successful crop production.
It is advisable to adequately research the climate and other conditions that may have direct or indirect effects and consider any of the above approaches for grape cultivation.
Along with the daily practices you follow, it is essential to maintain an online journal. The online journal must list all management actions and monitoring activities. You must make entries about what you have done and the changes you notice throughout the day. This daily journaling will help you track every event. The journal will only become more helpful if you write everything down and date it correctly.
The quality of the wine is affected by the vineyard management practices. There are different techniques that vineyard owners use to grow grapes. Factors such as soil quality, irrigation, pruning, and canopy management are also critical for vineyard management.
However, by following these five simple steps, you can dramatically increase the quality of your grapes and wine.