Canopy Management in Grapes – Facts for Fancy Fruit

Canopy Management in Grapes

Canopy management is a critical production practice for improved sunlight exposure. Pulling shoots off the top of the rows in high cordon-trained vines improves sunlight exposure to the leaves at the base of the shoots. Those basal nodes will be the ones saved as spurs next year during pruning, and sunlight improves bud fruitfulness and cane hardiness. Shoot positioning is normally started as shoots toughen enough to resist breakage and before tendrils attach tightly. It usually has to be repeated a couple of times.

Cluster zone leaf removal is another important canopy management practice on tight clustered varieties such as Vignoles, Seyval, and Chardonel.  Immediate post-bloom through about 3 weeks post bloom is the most effective time for leaf removal. Removal of 3 to 5 basal leaves in the cluster zone can greatly reduce risk of bunch rots. Exposure to sun makes the berries less susceptible to disease and allows more rapid drying after rain or dew. Spray penetration in the cluster zone is also improved. Leaf removal also improves fruit quality in aromatic varieties such as Traminette, and most red varieties, where sunlight exposure improves anthocyanin development. Delaying leaf removal increases the risk of sunburn, as does removal of too many leaves, especially on the west side of the canopy. Many growers remove leaves only on the east side (on north-south rows) to take advantage of morning sun for drying, but keep leaves in place on the west side to avoid excessive heat buildup.

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