App features

Know Your Vines #3: Why monitor dead or missing vines?

Know Your Vines #3: Why monitor dead or missing vines? 1920 1440 Sectormentor

In our new Know your Vines blog series we will share practical tips on what metrics to monitor in your vineyard. This is the third instalment, stay tuned for more as the coming seasons unfold!

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.


Counting dead or missing vines for yield prediction, replanting strategy and vine health

At the end of each growing season taking stock of your vines is an important part of vineyard monitoring. Checking how many dead or missing vines there are for each block enables you to calculate the actual number of vines you are managing.

Vines at Bride Valley Vineyard

Here are 3 areas that counting dead/missing vines can help you with:

 

  • More accurate yield predictions

 

 

It’s important to know the actual number of vines in your vineyard when it’s time to calculate your potential yield. Just 5% dead or missing vines can skew results significantly. Yield predictions with the Sectormentor Yield Predictor tool automatically take into account the number of missing vines.

 

  • Creating a replanting strategy

 

 

Having a handle on how many dead and missing vines is the first step to deciding if and when to start replanting them.

Davenport Vineyards decided to do some replanting of vines this year. Late last month, before Owner Will Davenport could even ask, vineyard manager Phil Harris had gone out and counted dead/missing vines in each block. This meant that when Will logged in to Sectormentor he could see exactly how many of each vine variety and clone he needed to order and so he called up potential suppliers right away.

“Previously I would have had to ask Phil to collect the readings and wait until he could give me the bit of paper he noted it down on, as he often works at the other site. It would have been a lot more hassle but using the app made it very simple.” – Will Davenport, Davenport Vineyards

Using Sectormentor For Vines to record information at Davenport Vineyards

 

  • Understanding vine health

 

 

Why are your vines dying? Are there multiple vines which have died in one block? Do you have a vine health issue? These are all questions to ask yourself when you’re counting missing or dead vines. The Sectormentor Vine Health Indicator tool takes into account dead or missing vines so you can identify patterns of disease more easily.

Often issues of this nature can be detected early by monitoring pruning weights; if the weight of pruned material drops from year to year there is likely to be a problem. This way you can address it before you lose the vine.

We spoke to Cathy Smith, vineyard manager at Hush Heath Estate who regularly harvests around 6 tns/acre – one of the highest yielding estates in the country. This is not due to an intensive input system and being cut-throat with the least productive vines, but rather due to diligent management of every single vine, as Cathy explains:

“The plants are like kids, each one is an individual and you have to care for them on an individual basis. When one of the vines isn’t looking so good I don’t understand why people rip it out straight away. I always observe the vine, try to understand what might be stressing it and then care for it for a year or two and see if it gets better, only then would I consider pulling it out. Plants need care and attention just like humans, only plants have one advantage – they don’t answer back!” – Cathy Smith, Hush Heath Estate Vineyard


Check out 10 key metrics to monitor in your vineyard and find out how our app Sectormentor helps you record data & manage your vines for the best quality grapes.

Know Your Vines #2: How are pruning weights helping vineyard managers keep their vines healthy?

Know Your Vines #2: How are pruning weights helping vineyard managers keep their vines healthy? 832 626 Sectormentor

In our new Know your Vines blog series we will share practical tips on what metrics to monitor in your vineyard. This is the second instalment, stay tuned for more as the coming seasons unfold!

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.


What can we learn from pruning weights?

“Pruning weights are the most important viticultural measurement in our vineyard each year. They indicate the long term health of our vines and keep us on track.” Will Davenport, Davenport Vineyards.

We can learn a lot about the health and development of vines from the winter ritual of pruning. Recording the pruning weight from sample vines in each block is often the earliest indication of changes in the health of your vines. It allows you to understand the language of the vines, months or even years, before you can see any sign of issues.

Thanks to Will Davenport of Davenport Vineyards, Matt Strugnell of Ridgeview Estate and Frances Trappey of Rathfinny Estate for sharing their tips and experiences on this subject.

How to record pruning weight

For each vine in your sample site, place all the pruned wood in a pile and tie it together with twine, weigh the bundle of pruned material with hanging scales and record the weight for each vine into the Sectormentor app. Back in the office, the app will automatically calculate the average pruning weight for that block (or clone/variety/rootstock) and the Sectormentor Vine Health Indicator tool will allow you to compare pruning weights and crop load between different blocks and how they are changing over multiple years.

Pruning at Albury Vineyard (https://twitter.com/AlburyVineyard/status/953623920262905856)

Using pruning weights to assess long term vine health and fertiliser requirements

Vines with high vigour don’t need any fertiliser (quite the opposite), while vines with low vigour may not be getting everything they need from the soils and so might need that extra helping hand. Managing fertiliser inputs and soil health is essential to growing the best quality grapes. Of course many vineyards rely on mid-season foliar applications of Nitrogen when the vine is clearly sending out signs it’s struggling, but this is often an expensive and reactive way to manage vines. Pruning weights and compost can be a much cheaper alternative that is more beneficial for your vines, the soil and the whole ecosystem on your vineyard in the long run. Hence, increasing ecology, profitability and beauty in the vineyard.

Assessing the vigour of your vines helps understand their long-term nutrient requirements. You would think the obvious way to understand the nutrients available to your vines would be to do soil tests, however, it turns out nitrogen levels in soil tests are not a good indicator of nitrogen levels available to the vine during the growing season (read more about this here) – pruning weights can actually be a much more effective way of understanding the nutrients available to the vine over time.

Will Davenport, vineyard owner at Davenport Vineyards, monitors pruning weights from sample sites in his vineyard using the Sectormentor For Vines app. As Will told us “the simplest thing to understand about pruning weights is that it’s all about how your pruning weight changes from one year to the next. If a vine is healthy and has everything it needs it will either increase or maintain the same pruning weight. If the pruning weight in one block of vines begins to decline, that is a very early warning sign that the vine isn’t getting everything it needs. As we are organic, this early indicator has been vital for us to maintain the long term health of our vines. As soon as we see a dip in pruning weights we are able to apply compost to that block, years before any deficiencies might be visible. Identifying issues like this early is vital, as compost takes about 2 years to affect the vine’s vigour.”

In the graph below you can see the average pruning weight per vine for some of the varieties grown at Davenport vineyards from 2017-2018. It is obvious that the Bacchus New had a serious decrease in pruning weights from 2017-2018. Therefore Will and his team applied compost to just this block.  It is clear that in Will’s case monitoring pruning weights has saved him time and money in the long run.

Using pruning weights to assess vine balance and vigour

If you want to compare pruning weights across vineyard blocks or different vineyard sites (e.g two sites of Chardonnay that have different planting spacing) then it helps to use a measure with comparable units such as Cane Weight and Crop Load (the Ravaz Index). As always it is not an exact science but these measures can help you to establish a standard for your own vineyard. This information and evidence can also be extremely helpful when looking to find a new buyer for grapes, or even taking on a new vineyard manager.

Looking at pruning weights combined with cane numbers at pruning time allows you to calculate the weight of each cane and therefore assess the vigour of vines across your vineyard. Cane weight is calculated from the pruning weight/cane no. at pruning. Cane weight can be used to compare vigour of similar vines on different sites, or also to benchmark vine vigour to being high, medium or low compared to other vineyard sites or blocks. With this information in mind you can decide how many buds to prune to in the future. e.g to make sure leaf growth is controlled for vines with high vigour, you would prune for more buds.

The Crop Load (indicated by the Ravaz Index), is the balance between reproductive growth (grape weight) and vegetative growth (pruning weight). It’s a useful measure that indicates vine balance and has also been closely linked to grape quality (especially sugar levels) in numerous studies. The Ravaz Index is calculated by doing the Harvest kgs/Pruning Weight. Generally it should be anywhere in the range of 5-10, but this often isn’t the case in more unusual vine-growing climates such as the UK. Instead of worrying about the standard, it is important to define your own crop load for your vineyard and, as more of us establish the optimal crop load on our vineyards, we can potentially start to define a standard for the UK.

Pruning in the snow at Ridgeview Vineyard (https://twitter.com/RidgeviewWineUK/status/968503347933274113)

At Ridgeview Wine Estate vineyard manager Matt Strugnell started monitoring pruning weights about ten years ago. He uses the Ravaz Index to give an indication of how balanced the vines are. Both Matt and Will pointed out that if you have an awful year with a flowering or fruitfulness issue it completely throws the ratio out as you will have less bunches but the pruning weight will remain consistent year on year. However Matt says it’s still very useful, for example he told us “in the last few years the Ravaz Index for our Chardonnay on SO4 rootstock has begun to increase compared to that on 3309, essentially the SO4 rootstock vines are still heavily cropping but the pruning weights are dropping. The vines didn’t look noticeably different but this gave us a heads up that something was changing and we need to pay extra attention to that area. We now make sure we remove a bit of fruit in early Summer and are looking more closely at nutrition for those vines.”

Matt pointed out that “even though the index will move depending on the conditions of the season (in a higher cropping year you will have a higher index) it can be very helpful to compare vine balance across different blocks within the same year, and can be an early warning sign for longer term issues before they become visible”. The team at Ridgeview do also score the cane vigour by eye – charge counting (no. of buds left on vine at winter pruning). They find the combination of the more objective pruning weights and more subjective charge count sets them in good stead for this season and the many seasons ahead.

Pruning at Rathfinny Estate in March (http://rathfinnyestate.com/estate-news/2018/03/31/march-2018-gallery/)

Using pruning weights to reflect and predict

Monitoring pruning weights enables you to look back at the vigour of your vines, but also forward to what your highest yield could be. In a paper by G. Stanley Howell he describes how “in the early 1920s, Partridge proposed to use the weight of cane prunings produced in year 1 as an indicator of the upper limit of a vine’s capacity to produce and ripen a crop in year 2.” This was drawn to our attention by Frances Trappey, Vineyard Analyst at Rathfinny Estate, who started monitoring pruning weights for the first time last year. Although she got interesting results reflecting on the past growing season and vine balance, nothing directly informed their actions for this year. However after reading the paper quoted above, Frances said “This opened my mind to the value of pruning weights as both a retrospective and predictive measure. So, I will be doing pruning weights again this year, but with a different mindset”.

Summary

Pruning weights are a way of listening to your vines, not just looking at them, and vineyard managers are using this as an earlier way to sense both long-term vine health and even total potential yield for the following year. Of course monitoring pruning weights can take time and you need to be diligent with recording everything – this is where Sectormentor is your new best friend and will help save you time and money. One of the most daunting tasks, is which bits of the vineyard should I measure pruning weights from? With Sectormentor we help ensure you have specific sample bays already setup, so you only need to measure pruning weights for those vines. Using our contactless tags and smartphone app it’s easy to record the pruning weights in the vineyard as you go, no paper necessary. Finally, once you get back home all the data is already sorted and visualised for you. Our new Vine Health Indicator will allow you to immediately see changes in the long term health of vines in each block (or clone/rootstock) as well as monitor your vine balance block to block and year to year – important indicators to manage an ecological, profitable and beautiful vineyard! Please email us at info@vidacycle.com if you would like to use Sectormentor in your vineyard. Thanks again to Will, Matt and Frances for their contributions to this post.

 


Check out 10 key metrics to monitor in your vineyard and find out how our app Sectormentor for Vines helps you record data & manage your vines for the best quality grapes.

 

References:

Patricia A. Skinkis, How to Measure Dormant Pruning Weight of Grapevines

Stanley Howell, stainable Grape Productivity and the Growth-Yield Relationship: A Review

Paul Schreiner, Patricia A. Skinkis, Monitoring Grapevine Nutrition

Know Your Vines #1: Soil Health in your Vineyard

Know Your Vines #1: Soil Health in your Vineyard 1701 1276 Sectormentor

In our new Know your Vines blog series we will share practical tips on what metrics to monitor in your vineyard. This is the first instalment, stay tuned for more as the coming seasons unfold!

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” 


Healthy soils are vital in an unpredictable climate and to drive profitability for a vineyard in the long term.

A healthy soil acts as an ecological buffer, it absorbs and allows water to percolate underground in heavy rains, and retains moisture for much longer in periods of drought. For anyone who farms, mitigating climatic risks is key and improving soil health is a low-cost and long-term way to do that. Plus healthy soils means healthy plants, and healthy plants require less inputs.

To begin to understand your soils, you need to go out and a take a good look at what is happening below ground in different parts of your vineyard. After all ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’, so assessing soil health is vital to build soil health for your vineyard.

To help you get started with monitoring your soils, watch our short videos below on how to do a few simple soil tests and how the Sectormentor For Vines app* helps you record and learn from your results.

For your vineyard we recommend doing the VESS, earthworm and slake tests all featured here, as well as the infiltration rate test that you can learn more about here. It is always good to look at rhizosheaths as well which is shown in the final video.

*please note: a basic version of the Sectormentor app, just for soil monitoring is shown in these videos. Soil monitoring in the Sectormentor for Vines app is the same, but has additional features to connect with your other vineyard data.

VESS TEST

Learn what to look for when you visually analyse your soil structure:

 

EARTHWORM COUNT

The best technique for counting earthworms in your soil sample:

 

SLAKE TEST

Watch how to collect a soil sample in the field and see how well your soil structure withstands water:

 

HOW TO ANALYSE YOUR RESULTS

How to log in to your Sectormentor account and analyse your results:

 

RHIZOSHEATHS

This is an additional test to assess biological activity, although not considered a key test. Find out what to look out for:

 

INFILTRATION RATE VIDEO COMING SOON..!

Here is a picture of the setup and tools you need for the infiltration rate test to whet your appetite, and here is a bit more info.

 

 


Check out 10 key metrics to monitor in your vineyard and find out how our app Sectormentor for Vines helps you record data & manage your vines for the best quality grapes.

Soil health in your vineyard: Do you know your earthworms?

Soil health in your vineyard: Do you know your earthworms? 590 442 Sectormentor

A resource created by Jackie Stroud, soil scientist at Rothamsted Research, also known as ‘The Worm Lady’!

Did you know there are three different types of earthworms at work in your soil? Each type lives in a specific layer and performs a unique function which contributes to the soil’s health and therefore your vine’s health. Find out why a decline in soil health is worrying for all wine lovers on Decanter.

Really you want to have all three types of worms working in harmony. The living litter feeders break down organic matter on the surface making nutrients available for uptake by vines, the top-soil worms work on building good soil structure (aggregation) and nutrient mobilisation, and then the deep-burrowers keep water flowing from the soil surface to deep pools below, as well as increasing aeration and root development.

Monitoring earthworm activity will give you a good overview of the soil health in your vineyard. All you need to do is dig a 20cm deep hole in the ground and count the different earthworms you find in each layer. Counting the number of worms is a good indicator of life in the soil. If you go one step further and identify what type of worm it is, then this can tell you much more about what the worms are working on and help uncover any necessary changes you need to make in your soil management.

However, you need to make sure you can identify which worms are which before you head out to the field!

You can use this AHDB info sheet that Jackie Stroud put together as a resource for learning about the types of worms and how to effectively count earthworms.


Find out how Sectormentor for Vines helps you record earthworm counts & learn how your soil is changing. Email info@vidacycle.com for more details!

How to prepare for data collecting in your vineyard

How to prepare for data collecting in your vineyard 1920 1440 Sectormentor

Monitoring and analysing your vines helps to predict grape yield and when to harvest your grapes to get the highest quality.

How many vines should I monitor?

First you need to create a sampling plan which is clear and easy to manage – making sure it’s actually doable is the most important element. If it’s too complicated you are likely to lose patience with it! Research recommend you sample 3% of your vineyard – this is the minimum suggested to get a representative sample for predicting your grape yield. In our experience many commercial grape growers sample closer to 1-2% of the vineyard and can still get very good predictions — the key is to make sure you are regularly going out and looking and adjusting any predictions based on what you see. It is after all an art and a science!

Bride Valley Vineyard

Which vines should I monitor?

We recommend ‘proportional stratified sampling’, which in basic terms means splitting your vineyard into smaller somewhat homogeneous blocks. Maybe your vineyard is already naturally broken down, for example you may plant different varieties or clones in blocks in the vineyard, that makes it simple! If you have a large-ish area of vines that significantly under or over performs in comparison to other area you could also define this area as its own block.

If you don’t have anything like this in place already, don’t worry! Think about your number of rows and the number of bays on each row, and draw a simple map of the vineyard, then outline the different blocks of vines that are similar. When using Sectormentor it’s also good to think about what you need this information for? For example, often (especially initially) vintners manage all clones of a specific variety in the same way. However, they will still setup Sectormentor to monitor based on blocks of clones, that is because they need to do separate yield predictions for each clone for the winery and therefore to get that level of information they need to ensure they are sampling enough vines within each clone.

The key questions to ask yourself when determining what will be your ‘block’ of vines are: when harvesting, what do you (or your winemakers) want to know the yield for, each variety? Each clone?  Each clone-rootstock combo? And when doing a specific activity, or yield prediction, do you want to make decisions based on variety? Or clone? or….?

Oxney Organic Estate Vineyard

How do I choose sample sites?

Once you have your blocks defined, you can decide which vines to sample within each block. It is suggested you sample 1-3% of vines in each block using a systematic method of selecting random samples (systematic sampling). You should always start a few rows in to avoid getting skewed results from the rows on the edge of the vineyard.

When you use Sectormentor to record counts a sample sites you have a few options:

  1. You can use scan a contactless (RFID) tag, which immediately identifies the sample site you are working in. Contactless tags make it simple, because you can attach them directly to the vine supports, and then scan them when you want to collect data at their location. Each sample site can have it’s own contactless tag.
  2. You can also use the GPS function on the Sectormentor app to set the location of your sample sites, so you can view them all on a map and find them easily out on the field. (Many people use this alongside the contactless tags)
  3. Some vintners choose to sample randomly and go to a set number of vines, but at ‘random’ locations each time. On the largest vineyards this is sometimes more convenient, but it’s often not the most accurate method because we humans aren’t very good at choosing random locations on the fly. It is also possible to setup Sectormentor this way if you’d prefer – if you are interested let us know and we can set this up for you.

RFID tag at Bride Valley Vineyard

What is an example of systematic sampling?

Let’s look at an example setup. Let’s say you have a vineyard split into 2 blocks, based on 2 different clones planted. Each of these blocks is relatively homogeneous. Consider one block, if a block has 30 rows with 20 bays in each row, and each bay has 5 vines. This means there are 100 vines/row. So that is 3000 vines in that block (see diagram below). You plan to sample close to 3% of the vines, then you have to sample 90 vines.

Using systematic sampling, you could pick every 5th row to sample, excluding edges. And if each row has 20 bays, you could have a system across the vineyard of always sampling from the 3rd, 9th and 15th bays. These bays are where you put the RFID tag and start the sampling from.

For efficiency we suggest sampling multiple bays at each location, so in this example you would always sample 3 bays from the tag, so if the tag was at bay 3, then you would use that tag to sample bays 3, 4 and 5.

Alternatively you could do systematic sampling across the entire vineyard for example every 4th vine on every 6th row. So you go to every 6th row and sample vines 4, 8, 12, 16, 18, 22 etc along that row. Although this method could potentially be more comprehensive, it can take longer to complete, and may not be manageable for your vineyard. For this method, we recommend putting one RFID tag at the end of the row, so you have sample rows instead of bays. When you scan the RFID tag the Sectormentor app will automatically remember which row you are on and save the data for all vines along that row.

One North Eastern US study states: Crop estimation helps ensure consistent production of high-quality fruit over multiple years in our variable climate. A grape grower who is unable to invest in, or elects to ignore, developing operational competence in crop estimation is likely to be at a competitive disadvantage in tightening markets.”

Interested in understanding more about your vines?

Check out our Sectormentor app which makes data collection in the field simple and easy, as well as analysing trends turning that data into helpful insights at home on your computer. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with us: info@vidacycle.com

Knowing what works on your vineyard: Trends

Knowing what works on your vineyard: Trends 985 680 Sectormentor

We always aim to make Sectormentor as customisable as possible, to empower you to record what you’re interested in, and find the results you’re looking for in the Trends section.

We’ve created several tools to make visualising your vineyard trends and patterns easier:

– The Ripeness Indicator Tool for monitoring your grapes in the run up to harvest.
– The Yield Predictor Tool which automatically converts your flower and bunch counts into yield predictions.
– The Vine Health Indicator for monitoring your pruning weights, crop load, and vigour.
–  The Harvest Tracker for keeping track of your harvest as it adds up and comparing to yield predictions.
– The Phenology Tool to view and compare key phenological dates between seasons (you can now import your own weather data to Sectormentor to see how these key dates relate to your GDD).

Sometimes however, there may be extra details you want to track that are more specific: does one rootstock have higher bunch counts than others? Does this clone have more flowers than average? When you want to take a more detailed look at your vines, the ‘Trends’ section on Sectormentor can help… The examples in this blog show how many different variables can be plotted against each other over different timeframes. We want to ensure you can get the insights you want for your farm!

Average bunches per vine per variety

 

This graph shows the average bunches per vine for several different variety. You can see immediately see which varieties are performing better in this metric!

Number & Severity of Frosts for each Variety

This graph shows the frequency (height of the bar) and intensity (colour) of frost across each of the different varieties in the last year at Davenport Vineyards. The frost hit hardest the Bacchus New, Chardonnay 9, Ortega New, Pinot Noir Redmoors and Siegerriebe New.  The team discussed that it would be interesting to overlay this graph with yields and see just how much the frost affected yields – this knowledge will be invaluable if heavy frosts hit again in future years.

Shoots per vine for each Variety

This shows the average number of shoots per vine per variety for one year at Davenport Vineyards.

Case Study: Davenport Vineyards use Sectormentor to enable better real-time management decisions

Case Study: Davenport Vineyards use Sectormentor to enable better real-time management decisions 1379 774 Sectormentor
 Will Davenport and his team have been collecting data for years but it was confined to scruffy notebooks and only typed up a few months later. They found they were collecting lots of data but not always using it because it wasn’t easily visualised, or they kept putting off typing it all up and so didn’t all have access to the data until very close to harvest, or even the next season!
Now he and his team use Sectormentor to record this data on the go, meaning they can spend more time making informed decisions and observing the plants, rather than messing around with scruffy notebooks and endless spreadsheets.
For example, they record the pruning weights from sample vines to determine how vigorous growth is. Almost the same day back in the office they use the Sectormentor website to look at weights, combined with cane numbers to decide if they need further pruning, or if they should add more compost in specific areas. Good data, combined with their years of knowledge, helps ensure they do all they can to help the vines produce high quality organic grapes.

Will Davenport tells us about his experience:

“Sectormentor helps us run our business effectively. It’s a management tool for out in the field, the more data I have about what’s going on in the vineyard the better I can do my job. We use it to record things like flowers per vine which gives us an early prediction of yields. It’s simple and much more effective, you just record the things you need as you go and they are immediately visualised for you.”

Last year he also used Sectormentor to record number of flowers per vine in early June, and that same day he had what turned out to be pretty accurate prediction of his yield 5 months before harvest, helping him plan and have his harvest run smoothly.

Sectormentor is very flexible so you can set it up to record whatever is important to you on your farm. Sectormentor is also coming in handy as part of on-farm research and trials across groups of farms, from soil-sampling to agroforestry it can help everyone collect information and learnings that can easily be combined to help create a consistent and reliable data set, perfect to find patterns between multiple farms.

Interested in how this could work for you, contact us here