Vine Monitoring

Know your vines #4: How to measure pruning weights

Know your vines #4: How to measure pruning weights 543 407 Sectormentor

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

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


Mid winter pruning weights video with Matt Strugnell, Ridgeview Wine

The onset of chilly winter conditions can only mean one thing in a vineyard, it’s time to prune back the vines. It marks the end of one growing season before the onset of the next.

What can we learn from the remaining canes? Unfortunately vines can’t talk, but their pruning weights can tell you a lot about vine health and vigour. You can use this information to understand how your vines are performing and inform decisions for the season ahead.

We spent the day with Matt Strugnell who has managed Ridgeview Wine Estate for 20 years and pruned a fair few vines in his time! Monitoring pruning weights is integral to his management strategy.

Matt showed us how he has perfected the art of getting pruning weights, starting with how to tame vine branches into neat bundles so it’s easy to record their weight as well

as simple timesaving tricks like using a loop of string, rather than tying up the bundle each time.

Now he records all his pruning weights in Sectormentor whilst he is out in the vines, no more typing things up when he’s back home and navigating multiple spreadsheets to figure out what it all means. With Sectormentor that’s all done automatically, so by the time he’s back in the office he can look on the vine health indicator to see the average pruning weights for each block compared to previous years, as well as cane weight and the crop load. Watch the video below of Matt demonstrating how to measure the pruning weight for one bay of vines.

 

Equipment:
Scales (Matt uses Berkley fish scales)
String (Loop ends to easily attach to scales)
Warm clothes! 🙂

Monitoring with Sectormentor:
Sectormentor makes it easy to record pruning weights at the touch of a button on your smartphone out in the vineyard. All the information you record is available as soon as you get back to the office. Using our Vine Health Indicator Tool you can see trends in pruning weights, cane weight and crop load (Ravaz Index) for each block providing an early indication of areas that need extra attention or a change in management. Recording pruning weights provides invaluable insights into the long term health of your vines. Many people don’t record them because it is too much effort, but we have made it into a simple 2 step process:
Measure the pruning weights, record in the Sectormentor app

Look at the graphs of the results on Sectormentor dashboard when you are back at the computer, decide on management approaches accordingly.


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.

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

Capturing Carbon on your Vineyard

Capturing Carbon on your Vineyard 659 353 Sectormentor

“If you want to capture carbon, you have to think like carbon!”

Check out this Short from Farmerama Radio, a podcast sharing the voices of smaller scale farmers, about Carbon Farm Plans and monitoring carbon from Charles Schembre at Napa County Resource Conservation District.

Charles Schembre is a Soil Conservationist at the Napa County Resource Conservation District, working primarily in Vineyard Agriculture. He received grant funding from California’s Healthy Soils Program to start the Carbon Farm Plan project, a scheme to support vintners with increasing soil health, sequestering carbon and improving water retention.

Sequestering or increasing soil organic carbon is the process of plants absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and transforming it into carbon in the soil through photosynthesis. This is beneficial for reducing greenhouse gases, in addition to increasing soil fertility.

Charles is working with farms and vineyards to create holistic ‘Carbon Farm Plans’, which assist them to increase their agricultural resilience and productivity, and mitigate the impact of our rapidly changing climate with sustainable farm management practises.

In this short episode of Farmerama, he explains how ‘Carbon Farming’ works, what a carbon farm plan is and how you can monitor this on your farm:

You can see an example carbon farm plan from the USDA Napa County vineyard here.

Carbon sequestration is a win-win, right?
Yes, however, making a plan and monitoring it’s success is the challenge. The idea for the plan is to put all potential options in, and then chip away to find what’s realistic. In terms of soil health there are several different tactics he suggests you can use to increase carbon in your soil and monitor how they are working:

  • No-till: This is the practise of not ploughing, leaving soil undisturbed, protecting against soil erosion and allowing microbes, fungi and worms to do their great work building soil health. This is one of the easiest practises to implement as it doesn’t involve much financial commitment, so a lot of the farms using carbon farm plans try it first.
  • Compost: Adding compost to the soil builds up it’s soil organic matter content. The benefits of this practise are much longer term. Charles recommends adding large compost applications to soil perhaps every 5 or even 10 years.
  • Ground cover: The more ground is covered in plants, the better. If you want to capture carbon, you need leafy green plants, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and putting it into the ground. So those, ‘untidy areas’ of the farm, rife with riotous plants and weeds, might actually be doing your soil a favour. Think twice about getting rid of them next time!

Soil monitoring
To understand how much carbon sequestration you are achieving Charles advises you start monitoring these three soil health indicators (identified by Soil Health Institute):

  • Wet aggregate stability (Slake test): this is the soil’s ability to withstand disintegration from water erosion. You can do the slake test at home! (our soil health expert Jenni Dungait has put together a great simple protocol that she has used extensively in research with farmers)
  • Bulk Density: this is the unit of dry soil & air per unit of bulk volume. It changes depending on different land management practises. The test is best done in a lab, and involves drying a soil sample in an oven at 105 degrees for 18-24 hours.
  • Soil Organic Carbon: this is a part of soil organic matter which is traditionally measured with the Loss-on-ignition test (also best done in a lab). However recent research by Soil Health Expert Jenni Dungait has shown that the wet aggregate stability test (or slake test) above is a proxy for Soil Organic Carbon when following this protocol.

There has already been a proven reduction in greenhouse gases on several of the farms using carbon farm plans. Do you think you can make your own carbon farm plan? Check out Charles’ Carbon Farm Plan for their demo vineyard, Huichica Creek.


Contact us to find out how our app Sectormentor for Vines helps you record & learn how your soil is changing.

The art and science of accurately predicting your vineyard yield

The art and science of accurately predicting your vineyard yield 1920 1440 Sectormentor

Why do crop estimates?

Crop estimates are important for many reasons for both grower and winemaker. Growers want to produce high quality fruit to get the best price for their grapes, or if it’s for their own wine, then to get the best quality wine. Ideally, the grower really wants to get the best quality grapes AND maximise their yield AND maintain the health of the vineyard. The crop load also affects harvest costs and logistics such as the timing of harvest, ensuring you have enough pickers etc. Of course crop load can also affect vine health.

As one researcher writes, “Overcropping a vine has many well documented negative impacts on fruit and vine quality including reduced and delayed fruit ripening, potential vine stress that may lead to increased susceptibility to winter injury, disease problems especially late season rots and other significant problems. Undercropping can also affect wine quality, as well as cheat you of valuable revenue.”

Vintner Will Davenport also pointed out “Knowing your (accurate) crop estimate can help to understand if fruit thinning is necessary and how much of the crop needs to be removed in order to keep the vine healthy and ripen the remaining grapes.”

Winemakers are also interested in crop estimates as they need to juggle tank space, and want to know which grapes are coming in when. Plus they need to know how many grapes they will be buying, and what they will then produce and have to sell.

 

Getting your initial crop estimate

Early in the season, often around flowering, you establish the number of clusters by going out and counting the number of flowers (we are referring to the whole inflorescence as a flower here) in each different block, or plot, of similar vines. This is a quick and easy way to give you an estimate of the number of bunches of grapes you will have, and therefore a general estimate of your yield.

There are a few things that can affect the accuracy of this part of the prediction significantly. If there is a frost, or a heavy rain/hail incident before fruit set and many flowers are lost, or if just before picking badgers come and eat all your fruit. But for the most part the majority of flowers will turn into bunches and bunch number is pretty predictable.

Using the Sectormentor for Vines app it’s very easy to collect flower counts on your phone and then the app automatically averages those counts for you, per block or variety. Our yield predictor tool is setup to assume 100% fruit set initially, but if there is some incident that changes this, it’s easy to go back and reduce the % fruit set for each block or variety.

 

 

Finding average bunch weights for your vineyard

The variable that is much less easy to anticipate in yield prediction is bunch weight. This varies every year depending on weather and the many other facets of the natural world that keep us on our toes. It is also often different for each variety or clone. It is only once you monitor bunch weights for each plot for a number of years that you start to have a pretty good idea of the average bunch weight for your vineyard, or at the very least the maximum and minimum average weights.

If you aren’t already monitoring this, then we definitely recommend recording average bunch weight for each block starting this harvest, this information is invaluable in the long term, we would consider it an asset to the vineyard! Of course this is very easily recorded and accessed with the app.

 

THE TRICK! How to get a more accurate crop prediction

To get an accurate yield prediction is part art, and part science. Knowing your average bunch weight stands you in good stead, but we have spoken to quite a few vineyards and all those that consistently get within 5% accuracy on their yield prediction use the beautifully simple art of going out and actually looking to judge (guestimate) what the average bunch weight will be this year, and then use that to adapt their yield prediction. This happens around the time of veraison, when vineyard managers will return to each plot in the vineyard and look at sample vines, visually estimating the eventual bunch weight for each bunch on the vine. This is the ‘art’ part and definitely gets easier the more experience you have.

 

 

How do other vineyards do it?

We have heard some clever ways of doing this:

Once at least 50% of the grapes have gone through veraison, Nigel Riddle at Wodetone Vineyard in Dorset picks a large bunch of grapes for each block and weighs it so that it’s 100g (take off extra grapes if it’s too heavy). He then goes to a series of sample vines and holds the 100g bunch in front of the bunches on the vine. By visually comparing with the 100g bunch in his hand, he can estimate the average weight of the bunches on the vine. After doing this for a while he doesn’t even need to carry around the 100g bunch with him as he can reasonably estimate the weight of each bunch just by eye. We chatted with Nigel and he agreed that to get started it might be best to compare the 100g bunch to each individual bunch on every vine at your sample site and record visually estimated weights on a bunch by bunch basis. But as you get better you can begin to record an estimated average bunch weight on a vine by vine basis.

At Davenport Vineyards the team have been working with the same vines for many years and they use a combination of historical data and visual surveying to optimise their prediction. They go out to their sample sites just as veraison begins and count the number of bunches on each vine. This gives them an accurate % flower set number which is helpful in future years, it also verifies the actual number of bunches on each vine. At this point they also do an estimate of the average bunch weight on each vine. The Davenport team do this purely by eye, they know what the maximum and minimum average bunch weight was for that variety and block in previous years. They use this range of numbers and their experience from past years to judge if the grapes on each vine are larger/smaller compared to previous years, and then estimate an average bunch weight for each vine at the sample site based on this. Will recommends making a best-case and worst-case scenario yield prediction for each variety based on the range of bunch weights you would expect for that variety. Luckily, this is easy to do using our yield predictor!

Another US-based vineyard told us how they use the lag weight method. Lag phase is a period of little or no growth in berries between two periods of rapid growth, it’s the point where the plant puts its energy into hardening the seeds and starts really building sugars shortly after. It happens just around veraison, and approximately 50-60 days after bloom. (See the graph below for a nice visual representation of lag phase). The vineyard manager will actually weigh the clusters on the sample vines at lag phase. It is estimated that grapes increase in size by 50% from lag phase to harvest, and therefore they multiply the lag cluster weight by approx 2 to estimate the final cluster weight and yield. Then in the weeks before harvest they will go out and look again and based on previous years experience they might increase or decrease the cluster weight multiplier (e.g 1.8 rather than 2).

Of course a vital part of this method is getting the multiplier correct for each block/variety based on how big the clusters look on the vine that year. It was also interesting to hear that Nigel at Wodetone doesn’t use a multiplier in his estimates when he weighs the 100g cluster a number of weeks before harvest, however he consistently gets good estimates. Nigel pointed out that most sparkling wine is harvested at 18 Brix, rather than 22 Brix, so we would expect a much lower weight increase between veraison and harvest for sparkling wines. We reckon it’s a combination of slightly smaller grapes at harvest for sparkling wine in the UK, and the fact that we humans are ever-optimistic in our estimations, which means that his method works perfectly without taking into account any increase in weight of individual bunches.

Credit: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-1434-11

Do the same thing each year

A key to getting a good consistent yield prediction is to use the same method each year. It is also important to not be disheartened when you are starting out, as predictions may be up to 20% out, this is ok initially! As you get more experience and build up your numerical vineyard history it will all become more accurate and easier.  If you are consistently getting it way out after a couple of years, then you probably need to sample more vines…or rethink your methodology.

Using Sectormentor for Vines for your yield prediction

We have built Sectormentor for Vines to work with both the art and science of vineyard monitoring. The app makes it very easy to collect bunch counts and bunch weights out in the vineyard and then the yield predictor makes it easy to turn that information into a yield prediction for each block or area of vines you want (see diagram below). The tool is also flexible so that you can consider minimum and maximum predictions. Of course this is just one of the many tools the app provides, including a Ripeness Monitor, Soil Health Indicator and more. Please get in touch with any questions or if you’d like to hear more about how the app might work for you.

UPDATE: We’ve recently upgraded our Yield Predictor Tool so that you can optimise your predictions with flower / bunch counts, and bunch weights! Learn all about the updated features in Part 1 & Part 2 of our more recent blogs about this!

 

How do you do your yield prediction? Do you have another method you think works well?

We are always learning what works and how people do crop estimates on their vineyard so please do email us if you have anything to add or any questions.

Resources:

Thank you to Nigel Riddle at Wodetone Vineyard, Will Davenport and Phil Harris at Davenport Vineyards and the following resources for help putting this article together.

https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-1434-11

http://pawinegrape.com/uploads/PDF%20files/Documents/Articles/Crop%20Estimation.pdf

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

Case Study: Graham Fisher – Bride Valley Vineyard

Case Study: Graham Fisher – Bride Valley Vineyard 1920 1440 Sectormentor

Bella and Steven Spurrier planted the first vines at Bride Valley Vineyard, Dorset, in 2009. They produce delicious English sparkling wines from their 10 hectares of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. It hasn’t been an easy ride but the chalky slopes of Dorset are perfect for the vines as they are now all flourishing!

 

The vineyard manager Graham Fisher has been there since near the beginning and is committed to managing the vineyard using minimal intervention and more ecological methods. Strips of phacelia and wildflowers line the vines to increase biodiversity and predation of moths, meaning most years they don’t spray against Light Brown apple moth. They have been experimenting with using parasitic wasps as a biological control method. They use an undervine weeder, and are working on ways to increase the efficiency of this tool and therefore justify not using chemicals/herbicides and, even have their own sheep to graze amongst the vines, providing free fertiliser and chomping down the grasses.

 

Graham was immediately taken with using Sectormentor to help him manage the vines. He didn’t have the time or patience to note down and then type up bud counts, bunch numbers, or document different experiments he was doing. Luckily Sectormentor solved this for him, now he can count bunch numbers, pruning weights and more with a quick tap of the phone. Then once back at the office immediately he can compare pruning weights for different blocks and varieties of vine, predict yield for the year ahead combining this years and previous years data.

 

Here’s a Q & A with Graham on how data contributes to vineyard management at Bride Valley:

 

How did you manage the vineyard before using Sectormentor? Like lots of people, with a notebook and pen and as a consequence I have lots of notebooks squirrelled away.

How important are data and tools in the vineyard to you? Very, the ability to compare things like yield per vine, per block historically allows me to see how the vineyard is performing and in the case of yield trials whether they have been successful or not.

Do you think it’s important for vineyards to collect data? Absolutely, without collecting data it would be impossible to assess the success or otherwise of the vineyard and what the impact of the viticultural practices is on the viability of the vineyard.

What information are you most excited about using?  To be able to compare the performance of the various trials we have running with the rest of the vineyard visually using charts rather than just a series of numbers!

What has been the main benefit of Sectormentor to you? It has shortened the process of collecting data and made it so much easier, also to be able to compare data from different blocks/trials/years visually right away.

Can you explain a little about the experiment you are doing with different pruning techniques and cane numbers? Very simply, yields in the UK are quite low compared to our European cousins due to our marginal climate, so we are conducting trials to see if retaining more canes at winter pruning will increase yields over the long run without it being detrimental to the health of the vine.

What’s next for Bride Valley? For a relatively small and new venture, we have had a fair bit of success with overseas exposure and sales, going forward we want to increase our yields and our sales in the UK.

What do you hope to see in the future for vineyards in the UK? Better weather and increased yields without losing the quality. Like most vineyard owners/managers it’s all about finding a balance between efficiencies and controlling costs, without impacting on the environment. Being financially and environmentally sustainable is the goal for everyone in my opinion.

 

If you’ve got any questions about monitoring data in your vineyard we’d love to have a chat with you. Email us at info@vidacycle.com

10 Key Metrics to Measure in your Vineyard

10 Key Metrics to Measure in your Vineyard 663 662 Sectormentor

After a few years working with vineyards we have drawn out some of the most valuable data you can collect in your vineyard. Tracking these 10 metrics will help you better understand how to manage your vines and optimise your grape quality and yield.

Producing great wine is both a science and an art, we help take care of the science so you can focus on the art!

Some of these metrics are measured at the level of individual vines, and others are measured on a block by block basis. Most vineyards don’t monitor every vine, but take a representative sample from each block of vines. Not sure which vines to sample? We’ve written some advice on sampling here.

The vineyards we work with use  Sectormentor to record all of the metrics featured, and visualise their progress with the trends and tools on the Sectormentor web app to build up a picture of how to best manage their vineyard.

Weather

(Bride Valley Vineyard on a frosty morning)

1. Date of bud burst / flowering / picking

Everything in farming is weather dependent. However, by recording the date of bud burst, flowering and harvest, you are better equipped to start predicting your harvest date, which is helpful when planning tank space among other things! If the flowering date is early then you are likely to have an early harvest, and you can get everything in place. The Sectormentor Phenology Tool allows you to visualise these patterns, and you can now import your weather data to Sectormentor to see how these key dates relate to your GDD.

 

2. Date of frosts and severity

Frost can seriously affect bud burst, flowering and harvest patterns, so it’s good to record the date and severity of any frosts. At the very least it provides context when looking back on data! Read more here.

 

Predicting Yield

(Grapes ready for harvest at Davenport Vineyards)

3. Counting flowers per vine

Recording the flowers per vine in late Spring/early Summer allows you to get going with an early yield prediction. It’s only an approximation, as a heavy hail storm during flowering, or persistent rain can still really affect the yield. However it’s good to do these estimates so you can start planning a few months before harvest. The Sectormentor Yield Predictor tool makes creating and saving predictions throughout the year easy – enter your vineyard’s info and the rest is generated automatically!

The Sectormentor app makes it easy to count flowers per vine – when doing a flower count, you can scan the RFID tag at the sample site you’re in and then enter the number of flowers you count on each vine for the next 10-20 vines (depending on your sampling system). ‘Sync’ when back in the office and you will see the average flower count per block straight away in your web app. Read more here

 

4. Counting bunches per vine

About a month before harvest many vintners count the average number of bunches per vine, which gives a fairly accurate yield prediction alongside average bunch weight. With Sectormentor you can create an updated yield prediction at this stage on the Yield Predictor Tool. Many people also measure their bunch weight over the years to get a good approximate bunch weight for each variety (see below).  Read more here.

 

5. Bunch weight (kg/vine)

Bunch weight at harvest is a key part of any yield prediction program. One important goal of recording bunch weight at harvest is not to predict the yield that year, but to provide an average bunch weight to help with yield prediction in subsequent years. Careful collection and maintenance of bunch weight records from year to year is pivotal to optimising your yield estimation. Proper record keeping will also give the you a good sense of the variation related to climatic conditions. Read more here

 

Managing Harvest

6. Measuring grape sugar

Almost all winemakers use a refractometer to help them determine when to harvest. You can either use a refractometer that gives you an Oeschle reading or a Brix reading. Both scales indicate the sugar levels in the grape.

The Sectormentor Ripeness Indicator Tool makes it really easy to visualise the ripening of all your grapes. After you’ve entered your readings you can track the pH, sugar and acidity of your grapes, and notice the pattern of your vineyard. Graphs showing grape sugar over time are not linear – so we know it’s useful to be able to track this process visually, and really helps when deciding when to harvest! Read more about the Sugar:Acid ratio here.

 

7. Measuring titratable acid (TA)

Acid has an arguable optimum level of 6-9 g/L for reds/whites and 11-13 g/L for sparkling. It’s time to harvest when the acid comes closest to these optimums at the same time that sugar comes closest to optimum level of around 22 Brix. In many cases optimums are not be reached, so there are other rules of thumb for judging readiness of harvest (use Brix:TA Ratio). As Will Davenport told us “Many UK vineyards pick sparkling wine grapes at higher levels than this in years when grapes struggle to ripen.” Read more here about titratable acid readings here. 

The Sectormentor Ripeness Indicator Tool makes it easy to visualise the acid levels of all your grapes. After you’ve entered your readings you can immediately observe the ripening patterns of your vineyard.

 

Optimising Yield

(Harvest time at Davenport Vineyards)

8. Pruning weight per vine / Cane no. at pruning

Mid-winter is an important time for pruning vines in the UK. If you record the weight of material pruned off each vine and the cane number at pruning time, then you can work out the weight of each cane and understand each vine’s vigour.

The Sectormentor Vine Health Indicator tool allows you to immediately visualise the vigour and health of your vines once you’ve entered your pruning weights and cane numbers. Assessing vigour allows you to determine how many buds per vine you want to prune to. If you have high vigour (or heavy canes), then you can prune for lots of buds to try to manage lower leaf growth. Some vineyards choose to record no. buds per vine as a clear record (and good check) of what actions were taken in the vineyard.

The pruning weight measurement is also used as a guide to whether the vineyard needs more nitrogen applied (compost/manure in organic systems) and is often a better indicator than soil analysis. Read more here.

 

9. Kgs picked

Everyone wants to know their yield. It’s important to know the total amount picked as your harvest weights can inform pruning techniques, and how you care for your vines going forward. If you can keep collection trays from different blocks separate when harvesting, and count them separately, then you can better understand how an individual block is doing and adopt management techniques accordingly.Read more here

The Sectormentor Harvest Tool allows you to monitor your harvest in real time, and measure up your yield predictions to the reality of that season. After harvest, you can use the tool to reflect on which blocks yielded higher, and decide on your management going forward.

10. Actual number of vines per acre: record dead/missing vines

At the end of each season it’s important to record the number of dead or missing vines in each block. This allows you to calculate the actual number of vines per acre in a block, rather than the number that were originally planted – just 5% missing vines can skew all other predictions. This number is key for yield predictions!

Will Davenport sums it up nicely,

“A vineyard manager / owner can never have too much data, both current year data and historical data, to assist in making decisions and predicting the next 6 months. The normal problem is that collecting and maintaining data can be very time consuming, and that is where Sectormentor helps – it makes it much faster, tidies everything up and allows me to look up things that the vineyard manager has measured.”

You can visualise the number of dead / missing vines in the Sectormentor Vine Health Indicator.

If you would like to find out more about using Sectormentor for your vineyard, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for more information, or subscribe directly here.

Special thanks to Will Davenport for his helpful advice on these metrics.

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