Balnaves prune about 550 hectares per year most of this is vineyard that we directly manage. We have a number of different mechanical pruners that we use from ledgard double reciprocating cutters Pellenc modified double sided saws, double sided finishing saws and single side reconstruction saws.
We have over the past 25 years tried a number of different pruning methods. From cane; which for us didn’t work well. It increased yield, increased costs and increased bunch size. This trial was ran for three years.
We have tried space spur pruning; that is to evenly space out spur positions across the cordon. This did produce some good, but was costly. Up to 70 cents per vine for the hand component. Our feeling is that unless this is done under frost control, you are spending too much money up front and should you get frost, you have lost about double what we would normally spend, secondly it would seem that in Coonawarra, spur positions die every year. This may be because of the cool start to the season or something else going on. But if you start space spur pruning, within a few years you will begin to lose spur positions. Machine hedges seem to be able to hold enough or rejuvenate enough spurs so this isn’t an issue.
“We try to do as much mechanically as we can. That is to do as many final cuts as possible so that when hand labour comes in they are spending their time doing important cuts, not re-cutting everything”
We try to do as much mechanically as we can. That is to do as many final cuts as possible so that when hand labour comes in they are spending their time doing important cuts, not re-cutting everything. If we do put two machines through we would expect that the cost of the second machine pass effectively comes off what we would pay the hand crews.
We have done following bud fruitfulness numbers; our thinking is that the vine sets its own level. If you start to change pruning levels each year you can end up with more dead spur positions. Set rather than bunch number plays such a large roll in final fruit quantity that if you pruned long because of poor bud fruitfulness and then had a good set you would have a crop that may not be able to be ripened.
We use as much mechanisation as we can to try to achieve a good stable number of spurs.