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Optimising your yield prediction – getting the bunch weights right!

Optimising your yield prediction – getting the bunch weights right! 2560 1707 Sectormentor

Optimising your yield prediction – getting the bunch weights right!

We know that counting bunches as the grapes are growing on the vines is a hugely important part of the vineyard monitoring calendar. A thorough bunch count gets you around 60% of the way to an accurate yield prediction, with the other 40% coming from understanding your bunch weights. After working with many different vineyard managers, we have found that taking steps to optimise your yield prediction means you can consistently get your prediction to within 5% of your actual yield – well worth it! In this post we will focus on optimising those final steps of the yield prediction, and using your intuition, combined with all of the data available, to ensure you get the best prediction possible.

As Luke Spalding, vineyard manager at Everflyht Vineyard in Sussex, told us:

“Without a good yield prediction, it can create a lot of stress for the vineyard team, as harvesting time can get out of control. It also creates stress in the winery when you don’t know how much is coming in or when the harvest is going to stop!”

So…. you have got a  good estimate of your bunch count, now how do you get the best estimate of your bunch weights? Let’s talk you through different ways people approach this and how our newly released Sectormentor tools help with each… 

Counting bunches at Everflyht Vineyard with Luke Spalding

The art of estimating bunch weights: from early estimates to lag/veraison

The most common method for creating your first yield prediction of the season is to use the average bunch weight from past years combined with current bunch counts. This is good for getting a vague first estimate but we have learnt over many harvests that for lots of sites there is almost no such thing as an ‘average year’ – each year zig-zags quite considerably around the average, so calculating a prediction based on this concept of an average can send you way off! We notice people will often say things like ‘this season is shaping up to be just like 2016’ – so the Yield Predictor now makes it easy to select bunch weights from a particular past season, for making an early prediction of this year’s yield. If current growing patterns remind you of the 2018 season, you can go in and use the average bunch weights from 2018 in your prediction for this year.

Once you hit lag phase or veraison many viticulturists will weigh some bunches to get an early idea of actual bunch weights for this year. At this point, in Sectormentor it’s very easy to update your yield prediction with the average lag/veraison bunch weights from each block (these were entered into the app and then Sectormentor automatically calculates the average for each block) combined with a multiplier appropriate to each block/varietal.

Joel Jorgensen, viticulturist and consultant at Veraison, has been using the new Sectormentor update.

He told us: “Being able to quickly and easily make a prediction that integrates bunch weights from specific past seasons is brilliant. Of course there is no ‘average’ season, but often a season feels similar to a past year, so being shown an estimate of the predicted yield based on historic bunch weights for each block is very powerful.”

Estimation Ranges

We often hear vineyard managers remembering the year with the biggest yield, or recalling painful memories of their worst, lowest yielding year. Knowing what possible extremes might look like, based on past years, presents a more complete picture of what your harvest could look like.

Do the berries look particularly small this year? Or maybe the bunches are some of the heaviest you have seen…

With the Sectormentor Yield Predictor Report you can see the heaviest and lightest bunch weight you’ve ever recorded in each block and we extrapolate from that what this years yield in each block would look like if either of those extremes happened (taking into account how many bunches you’ve counted this year).

These estimation ranges are now standard as part of each yield prediction, helping you to see on a block by block basis what the likely range of yields are. As the season progresses and you update your prediction, this estimation range becomes increasingly useful, as you get a sense for this year in relation to others, with all the numbers at your fingertips.

We spoke to Will Davenport, at Davenport Vineyards in Sussex & Kent, after he’d tried out the new updates:

“Having the high and low estimates really helps us plan tank space effectively as we have a better idea of the upper and lower ranges for yields we can expect from each varietal.”

Joel at Veraison found the estimation range update has made his yield estimates much quicker and easier:

“A good estimation range is also a vital part of creating a yield estimate as so much can change between veraison and harvest, so it’s useful to know best and worst case scenarios as early as possible. I’ve never had this kind of information at my fingertips before – Sectormentor is making it faster and easier to do my job, and helping me to access powerful information that previously took hours of complicated spreadsheets.

This is about optimising those final steps of the yield prediction, and using your intuition, combined with all of the data available, to ensure you get the best prediction possible.

Example shot of the estimation range in the Yield Prediction Report 🍇

Historical bunch weights reporting

If you need a reminder of what your historical bunch weights were in past seasons, we have created a brand new Sectormentor historical bunch weights report, to help you pick the right season for this year’s prediction.

Get in touch with us at info@vidacycle.com if you have historical bunch weight data that you want us to upload to Sectormentor – we’re very happy to do so! Just make sure it’s clear which of your Sectormentor blocks the bunch weights belong to 🌞

We’d love to hear what you think of these updates. Fo let us know if you have any feedback or questions, or if there’s anything we can do to support.

Example shot of the Historical Bunch Weights Report 🍇

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Regenerative Viticulture Series #3 with Dan Rinke

Regenerative Viticulture Series #3 with Dan Rinke 575 575 Sectormentor

Regenerative Viticulture Series #3
The Practicalities of Regenerative Viticulture with Dan Rinke and Luke Spalding

Dan Rinke consults vineyards, orchards, wineries and cideries looking for support in converting to regenerative farming and low intervention wine making, with Art+Science+Cider+Wine Agronomy. His winegrowing career began with university studies in viticulture and plant science. After working at several vineyards in California, Dan took the position as Winegrower (manager/winemaker) at Johan Vineyards, an 88-acre certified organic/biodynamic, dry farmed, and minimally tilled vineyard/winery in Oregon. Dan speaks and consults internationally about implementing regenerative approaches to improve the ecology and profitability of the vineyard.

In this session, Dan is in conversation with Luke Spalding, manager of the beautiful Everflyht Vineyard in Sussex. Luke and Dan cover a real range of topics, with a focus on more on-the-ground implementation of regenerative viticulture methods. They dig in to the practicalities of alternative inputs, building habitats for your ecosystem cleansers with ramial woodchip piles, learning from sap analyses, micro-nutrients, and wood chip applications. We learn about implementing no-till in a vineyard, cover crop mixes, and the liquid carbon pathway to name a few! Dan also shares his key tools for a fully organic and biodynamic approach and some of the theory behind why those approaches work. Watch below to learn from Luke and Dan’s fascinating conversation.

An audience member did also ask a question about iron deficiency in their  soils and the answer to this wasn’t recorded – as a quick summary Dan and Luke spoke about working with biology in a number of different ways: using humic substances to open up the iron availability; potentially encouraging certain plants or ‘weeds’ that mobilise iron; potentially using sheep to bring iron into the system; and trying to encourage microorganisms that mobilise iron. There was also suggestion of considering what is blocking the iron and managing for that as well.

References from Dan & Luke’s talk

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Regenerative Viticulture Series #2 with RegenBen

Regenerative Viticulture Series #2 with RegenBen 800 800 Sectormentor

Regenerative Viticulture Series #2
Regenerative Experiments on a UK Vineyard with Regen Ben

RegenBen is an agronomist, turned farmer, turned regenerative agriculture obsessive! Ben uses biological, peer-reviewed methods to produce low intervention crops, with a clear focus on diversity and experimentation. He is keen to put fun back into farming, and share his learnings as he goes. Ben is BASIS & FACTS certified – it was through doing his Nuffield Scholarship in 2016 that he had his eureka moment, realising regenerative agriculture is a crucially different way of understanding farming.

This conversation with Ben focuses on experiments on his plot of vines, and successes he’s had with regenerative methods across his whole farm. We learn about why Ben identifies ‘regenerative’ farming as a departure from both organic and conventional thinking. He talks about the importance of diversity in regenerative systems, why everything comes back to soil health, under-vine companion cropping, how to address compacted soils and the role of micronutrients in producing quality crops. We learn why, when, and how to use sap analysis, and what to look for in your results. A real range of topics were covered in this session, so there should be learnings for all levels of people interested in regenerative viticulture – from seasoned winegrowers to curious beginners!

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Case Study: Adam Foden at Gusbourne Estate

Case Study: Adam Foden at Gusbourne Estate 750 1000 Sectormentor

Sectormentor helps link soil health to vine productivity – Adam Foden at Gusbourne Estate

Gusbourne Estate spans across two vineyards, one in Kent and one in West Sussex, planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. Their growing ethos is low intervention, allowing nature’s processes to work.

The Gusbourne approach to winemaking is no different – keeping intervention to a minimum to ensure maximum expression and terroir in each bottle. Gusbourne wines have won several international awards, and they are the only three-time winners of the IWSC English Wine Producer of the Year. Adam Foden looks after the vines at the Gusbourne Sussex site.

Sectormentor has empowered Adam to link soil health and vineyard productivity:
 
“Our vines were really struggling in certain spots and we couldn’t figure out why. We sent off soil lab tests and all the indicators were good. We even had the previous farmer out to see if he had any ideas of why certain spots weren’t doing well. It was only after I dug some holes and recorded my observations and overlaid that with other info in Sectormentor that I realised it was the soil structure that needed attention. We were just looking at a compaction issue. We had ordered a load of Magnesium which we were about to apply at a very high rate – it’s great that we figured out the real problem before spinning all of that. We saved ourselves the time and repercussions of overfeeding with Mg. Instead we did some subsoiling in the area and put in mixed cover crops to improve our soil structure.”
 
“I’m very excited to get more into the soils side of it going forward. Soil is something I hadn’t paid loads of attention to even though my background is in horticulture. I never really got down and right into the detail of it, which is what I’m excited about doing. Especially witnessing this compaction issue – that is going to lead on to a regular program of soil maintenance. So we are excited to use the soil side of app over next few years, plotting how that gets better (or worse) as we go ahead.”

Sectormentor frees up Adam’s time and makes collecting information much easier for him and the whole team:

“Sectormentor really does free up my time. Previously I’d have a notebook in the field, and then had to spend 2-3 hours in the office making a spreadsheet with a formula from my notes. It’s a joy to be able to have this all done immediately – you just enter a phenological date and it’s all done, and so easy to use and accessible. It’s become second nature. Inflorescence counts are so easy now – we gave our earliest yield estimate ever this year to the winemaker by the end of June. Usability is brilliant on it, I’ve found it really comfortable to use, and everyone in the team has had a go, there is a whole spectrum of abilities using it.”

“We never really did pruning weights in the past as it felt like too much hassle, but now we’re starting to record them in Sectormentor, and it’s so easy. In some places I’ve been worried we’re stretching the vines too far, so now we’ll be able to see if that’s the case.”

Adam also finds Sectormentor helps to easily share observations with the whole team:

“We had similar information in the past but it sat on many different files, and different people move the files around so you can never find what you’re looking for. Merging all this information into one place means we can easily look at it and everyone is on the same page. As face to face meetings are hard at the moment, I can still easily discuss observations with the team – we know we are both looking at the same data.”

We’re excited to see how things progress at Gusbourne, and particularly how Adam’s soil monitoring journey develops. In response to the compaction issue, Adam has subsoiled and added in a cover crop mix. It will be interesting to see how this affects the Sectormentor soil test results going forwards.

Case Study: Matt Strugnell at Ridgeview Estate

Case Study: Matt Strugnell at Ridgeview Estate 543 407 Sectormentor

Matt Strugnell at Ridgeview Estate


Ridgeview Estate is an award-winning vineyard just to the north of the South Downs in East Sussex. Ridgeview are at the forefront of English sparkling wine production, and ship their delicious wines around the world, having won several international wine trophies in the process.

Matt Strugnell is the viticulturist responsible for managing the vines at Ridgeview, as well as their many partner vineyards – with 20-odd years of grape growing under his belt. Matt is certainly not your typical data geek, but early on he learnt that attentively monitoring vines and being as pro-active as possible in the vineyard is key to harvesting the best quality grapes. He tells us:
 

Sectormentor helps Matt keep things organised 
 
“A big chunk of our vineyard information is now in one place, which saves me so much time. Now, at a glance I can see how the season is progressing so far and how it compares to past years.” 

Visualising his data also helps Matt to plan for the season ahead

“Some people like seeing lists of numbers, but I prefer visualising things on a graph or chart. Using the Sectormentor tools has made it easy to compare different years side by side on graphs which has been really useful for forward-planning. Pretty early on I realised collecting key information about the vineyard is vital so you can plan well ahead and get your timings just right. 

A good example of how it changed my thinking: I had an inkling for a while that flowering and harvest dates were very related but all the information was spread across so many different spreadsheets it was very difficult to compare year to year. With the Phenology Tool that has changed – I can immediately see there is an incredibly consistent relationship between flowering and harvest dates over many years, for each block. I now feel confident that on the day of 50% flowering I can pick up the phone to our contractor and let them know which week we will need a harvesting team – ensuring I’m booked in well ahead of time.”

We’re excited to see how the growing season progresses at Ridgeview, and how their key phenological dates continue to evolve year on year.
 
Read more about the Phenology Tool mentioned by Matt here.