IMPROVING VINEYARD YIELDS
One question we are frequently asked at VineWorks is, “What should a vineyard yield per hectare?” The answer is not straightforward as yields vary significantly.
While some vineyards in the UK achieve high yields of 10 tonnes or more per hectare, the national average is less than 5 tonnes. This level of production often makes it challenging for vineyards to generate profits. To ensure the long-term success of a vineyard, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence yields and implement strategies to optimise them. These influences are diverse and many in number. However, we can break them down into three main categories:
The decisions made during the establishment phase of a vineyard are crucial for its long-term success. Suitable site selection is essential, although it is rare to find a piece of land that meets all desired criteria. Conducting a thorough survey of the land with viticulture in mind enables informed decision-making. Ground preparation and matching the rootstock to the soil type promote balanced and healthy vine growth, leading to good yield levels. Careful consideration of grape variety selection is also important, taking into account budburst and ripening timings, which can affect a vine's susceptibility to frost and late-season weather conditions.
The work carried out in the vineyard throughout the year has a significant impact on yields. Winter pruning is crucial for setting the stage for the upcoming season. Pruning should be done according to appropriate specifications, with a focus on modern gentle pruning methods. This approach ensures the selection of the most fruitful two-year-old wood as replacement canes and spurs. It also promotes an open renewal zone, allowing for better light penetration and high levels of flower initiation for the following year.
Grape growing is inherently influenced by climate, but understanding and managing seasonal events can minimise their impact on vineyard yields. Frost-prone sites require an active frost defence plan, utilising tools such as bougies, frost fans, heaters, and cold air drains. Innovations like UV-emitting cables, which are currently being trialled in a vineyard managed by VineWorks, show promise in managing frost. Appropriate canopy management and timely spray applications help mitigate other seasonal weather effects. Late-season rain, frost, or hail can damage the crop significantly, making it crucial to react quickly and effectively during harvest. Grazing pests, like deer, can pose a threat to early spring growth in vineyards, often necessitating the installation of deer fencing. Monitoring certain insect populations is essential for implementing a robust integrated pest management system that utilises all available control and protection methods.