Making lemonade in the vineyard – Facts for Fancy Fruit

Making lemonade in the vineyard

There’s a saying that when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. Well, this year life has given us multiple spring frosts, so we have to make the best of the situation. Growers that have blocks with significant spring frost injury and very little crop may want to use this year to retrain vines, re-establish cordons, and potentially remove blocks to plan for the future. There are many ways this can be done.

In blocks with trunks older than 10 years, or those otherwise compromised by cold damage and trunk disease, cutting vines down completely and retraining new trunks from the ground is a good option. Save several new shoots and select the best next spring to save as new trunks. That decision needs to be made relatively soon so there is adequate time for new shoots to develop.

In blocks with generally healthy trunks, but severe damage to primary shoots, minimizing shoot suckering and thinning this year with the goal of replacing cordons, or improving spur health and position on the cordons is a good option. By saving shoots that originate from the main trunk near the top wire, the entire old cordon can be removed next spring and replaced with healthy canes. On healthy cordons with damage to one-year-old spurs, the only shoots that develop are from basal buds on those spurs or latent buds on the older wood of the cordon. Saving the new shoots along the cordon will allow the older wood spurs to be completely removed next spring. Some shoot thinning and shoot positioning will still need to be done this year, but if you have an eye to the future, you can use this bad situation to make things much better for the health of the vineyard. Cleaning up cordons in this way helps maintain the training system and removes a lot of old dead wood that is an overwintering site for pathogens such as phomopsis and trunk disease organisms.

And when you’re all done with the vineyard work, you can pour a little Indiana made whiskey in your lemonade, add a sprig of fresh Indiana-grown mint, and celebrate the Hoosier state and all it has to offer.


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