Pruning has started in the Tassel Ridge Vineyards. Work started in our Marquette and La Crescent vines at Meadowcreek. We got a small start on some nice days in early February and then winter returned. We started back up about ten days ago when the weather started to improve AND our V-Mech mechanical pruner arrived.
The V-Mech mechanical pruner is trailer mounted. The trailer is pulled by a Deere 5000 series tractor. Two people sit one in front of the other in the trailer and, using joy sticks, one controls pruning on the right side and the other controls pruning on the left. Right now we are using it for long pruning and have estimated that it is ten times as fast as manual pruning.
It is absolutely clear that in order to take full advantage of this system’s power, our operators need lots of skill and that will only come from experience. We’ve learned from grape growers in Missouri who have used this system for 8–10 years that it takes about three years to get fully proficient but by the third season, we should be able to eliminate all hand pruning.
In addition to pruning, we will use this same equipment to remove suckers and water shoots on the vines and also to remove leaves on the east side of the vines. Suckers sap energy from the vines and don’t serve any useful purpose most of the time but removing them is time consuming and back breaking. Leaf removal is not practical without some form of automation but removing leaves on the east side of the vines can help us expose the grapes to sunlight and reduce acid in the juice.
We will have more photos and even a movie showing how this new machine works to improve grape quality and reduce the cost of growing grapes.