Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kicker canes.

Pruning in the Napa Valley is in full right swing now.  I hope to begin pruning Vinoland's black grape varieties today or tomorrow. Vinoland is very fortunate not to have an issue with high vigour in the vineyard.  The vines here are rather well balanced individuals, in part due to the fact that they are head trained and in some part due to the fact that our soil is lousy. Except for one small area that is.  In that particular location the vines are planted a little closer together, one row is cordon trained and, seemingly, the vines have found something particularly appealing to them beneath their roots - so they misbehave.  But, what if high vigour was an issue here, as it is on the highly fertile valley floor?  What could be done to suppress the vigour in the vines at the onset of their annual growing cycle? Planting a cover crop could be one solution, but another approach would be to leave kicker canes on the vines.
A kicker cane (aka a sacrificial cane or a vigour diversion cane) can be very helpful in controlling overly enthusiastic vines. This method involves retaining supplemental, disposable canes at pruning time - at the crown of a head trained vine, or at the apical end of a cordon trained vine.  In the cordon trained vine, a kicker cane takes advantage of a grapevines natural disposition towards apical dominance and can also aid in delaying budbreak. Increasing the number of buds retained per vine has an overall vigour reduction effect as the kicker cane becomes a sink for new growth.  Later, after budbreak, the entire cane will be removed to ensure it doesn't sap too much of the vine's vigour.  In the photograph above it is clear that when the kicker cane is removed only the desired 2 bud spur, on this old quadrilateral-cordon trained vine, will remain.
Okay, that's enough of that, I'm off outside to prune!

9 comments:

Thud said...

Another post like this and I'll be dropping off another pigs head!

Craig Justice said...

We finished the "Director's Cut" of pruning last week and budbreak is already underway! We even have our first baby grapes. On the block I pruned -- before the Queen got to it -- I left kicker/sacrificial canes as well. The last 2 years we've had much rainfall -- this year there's been much less rain, so I suspect the vines will be better behaved (and thirsty). Well, it's off to finish rewiring those broken poles, and to fine tune the trellis system (we're working on making it a bit higher to handle more of that growth). Happy pruning, happy vineyarding.

Vinogirl said...

Thud: I'm shaking in my wellies!

Craig: Nice to hear from you. Sounds like you are very busy. I know we have had a warmer than usual winter in California, but it never ceases to amaze me just how early budbreak happens down in San Diego!

Thomas said...

Bud break! In March!

Scary prospect here...

Vinogirl said...

Thomas I have one unidentified, mutant vine that has bud-swell...all the Orange muscat and Pinot grigio canes are tied down and ready to go. Of course we will have spring frosts!!!

Thomas said...

Vinogirl,

Fondly I recall my first trip to Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, which took place in mid April.

I almost passed out when I saw six-inch shoots on the vines. Made me feel inadequate as a vineyard and wine person not to have such advanced activity back home.

Vinogirl said...

Shoot envy? Terrible problem to have :)

About Last Weekend said...

Love prunes! That picture looks quite majestic, like something from Lord of the Rings, making pruning quite a valiant exercise...

Vinogirl said...

ALW: Don't know about valiant, but looking down the unpruned rows of vines, in Vinoland, it does feel a little like a trek through Mordor!