It is that time of year again! Time to break out of our lazy winter, no-work lull (ha-ha!) and start pruning the vineyard. Pre-pruning is done mechanically and saves us a lot of time. The pre-pruner cuts the vines down to the desired height, removing and mulching the excess vine growth from the wires as it goes.
This year we are using our own Pellenc 4560 vineyard machine! When we purchased it last August, we also got an attachment for pre-pruning. This will save us time and scheduling trouble of renting the tractor towed pre-pruner like we did last year. While that machine was well worth the trouble, this pre-pruner actually makes better cuts and is less prone to damage the vines and trellis.
The pre-pruning attachment is designed to fit onto the front of the Pellenc and counter weights and bracket are attached to the back to keep the whole machine properly balanced. The picking head has been detached and will be stored in our barn until the fall.
Like when harvesting, the Pellenc straddles the vine row so as to get the cutting heads in position.
Moving down the row at 1-2 miles per hour, the inter-meshing blades do their work cutting and mulching the excess vine growth. Actually, the Pellenc is less dramatic than the machine we used last year. It is not as loud, the heads don’t spin as fast and the mulched vines don’t get blasted all over – all of which are a plus for comfort and safety.
The height of the pruning heads is adjustable from inside the Pellenc cab. For our vineyard, we leave about 4-6 inches of spurs coming out from the cordon (the main horizontal part of the vine). As the pre-pruner approaches the 6 ft high Tee-posts (which hold the vertical shoot positioning wires) it opens and closes automatically without missing a cut. This is done by the orange colored wheels in the pruning head that push the blades apart so they don’t try to cut off our metal posts! Because they open only enough to avoid the posts, very few vines are missed – another plus over the machine we used last year.
A look from behind shows the Pellenc 4560 moving down the row with the counter weights visible – the big orange things on either side.
Here is a picture of vines before pre-pruning. As you can see, there is a lot of excess vine growth up into the positioning wires. If all of this were left, the vines would go crazy trying to set fruit all over and very little if any would be able to ripen. More on that later.
After pre-pruning, the spurs as they are now called are left about 4 – 6 inches long. This will make our finish hand pruning much faster and easier since we won’t have to pull all the long canes out of the wires. The mulched canes will also work back into the soil faster.
Now we begin hand pruning – I will tell you more about that next week on Family Fridays.