Prepruning and Sustainability

 

Sustainability - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Cesar in Block 28

 

Each year, in late December or early January we embark on the process of pruning the entire vineyard to prepare for the vines’ awakening in Spring.  The first step in this process is to pre prune the long canes from last year’s growth down close to the primary vine (cordon) so that our vineyard crews can go about more delicate pruning without having to deal with 3-4 feet of stiff, whipcord vine above their heads.  In the past the process of pre pruning took 2 full walking passes and 2 full tractor passes through the entire vineyard to complete. 

 

Clemens - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Gear bladed cylinders

 

One vineyard crew member would come through with a hedger and clip the long canes down so that 6-8 inches of last years vine were left connected to the cordon (primary vine).  Following this first crew member would be a support tractor (carrying water, shade, and sustenance) and 2 more crew members who would disentangle the cut portion of the cane from the guide wires.  Finally, a second tractor would come through and chip up the removed canes to break them down and give their nutrients back to the soil.

 

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Clemens closed

 

Sustainability - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Clemens opened

 

The latest addition to our array of tractor attachments is a Clemens Pre Pruner that reduces those four passes to just one tractor pass.  Two vertical cylinders of spinning, gear-like blades attach to the front of our one of our vineyard tractors.  The tractor pilot, in this case Cesar, then drives between the rows using a simple thumb control to avoid catching the blades on posts or cutting down younger vines that need training.  This is the first time a Clemens has been effectively attached to a full track (as opposed to the half track Kubota we wrote about in last year’s article) New Holland tractor and we’ve had a lot of interest from Clemens as to how their machine performs.

 

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Entering a row

 

Thus far we have been very pleased and impressed with the results.  The way that the blades on the pre pruner are spaced avoids clipping our vine training wires by allowing them space to gently flex with the tractor and attachment as they move through the vineyard.  Additionally, the reduction in number of foot and tractor passes through the vineyard is much better for the health of our soilbourne ecosystem accross the ranch.  We have converted to using the New Holland full tracks (which are manufactured by a division of Fiat Group) during muddier times of year as they have better traction and less potential to slide in steep portions of the vineyard.  As ever, sustainability is in the forefront of our minds and it is envigorating when innovation in the vineyard contributes in such a significant way to the net environmental value throughout the property.

 

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Cover crop finally peeks

 

The cover crop planted back in December is finally beginning to peek after last weeks rain and this weeks sun.  This is exciting as it seemed for awhile as if the seeds were merely going to provide a massive food source for our local avian and squirrel populations.

 

A preview of our valentines chocolate flight

A preview of our valentines chocolate flight

 

Check back next week for news on upcoming wine dinners and the installation of a new weather station along the old MacGillivray Airstrip in the middle of the vineyard.  Until then, cheers and happy Winter!



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