Two Novel Aspects of System = "Pedestular Cane Suspension" + "Shade Throttling"


Pedestular Cane Suspension {PCS}  


One pass canopy management is performed post fruit set, facilitating better decisions, including the decision to abandon in years of extreme shatter. Higher crop placement provides better ergonomics during canopy management. Vines are less restricted by the infrastructure and more pliable, facilitating the creation of complete symmetry in the downward direction. No wires in the fruiting zone cuts pruning time in half in the winter; greater mass of vine is more easily deposited in middles for shredding. While the vines are cane pruned, there is no “tying” of the canes with wires or ag tape. Canes float loosely in space on pedestals. Spring time applications of herbicides and composts are facilitated by higher vine canopies. Trellising wires and the need for positioning them is eliminated. Mechanical harvesting is facilitated by greater whipping action at the distal ends of steel posts and stakes. Higher crop placement provides better ergonomics during hand harvesting.

I have also found that if you simply let cane pruned vines grow naturally from a raised platform (that is, if you do not pursue the creation of shade lines), it still offers some advantages with regard to being able to control the degree of sun on the fruit. With the more radial geometry of naturally growing vines, we have developed a leaf pulling technique that we call “scooping”, where we strategically pull leaves out of the inner fruiting zone in such a way that the more distal canopy provides different levels of mottled sun and shade on the fruit. This effect is compromised in Vertical Shoot Positioned (VSP) systems, where leaf pulling on the rigidly controlled sides of the canopies leaves more of an all-or-nothing proposition for sun on the fruit. Scooping naturally growing vines has led to a very cost effective, one-pass system of canopy management. If there is a downside, you do have to more or less cover the vines with bird net because the fruiting zone is more internal to the geometry of the vines. This overall approach can be attempted from the origin of a lower platform, but there are drawbacks, some of which took growers away from the California Sprawl in the first place.

Shade Throttling

Real time, same day creation of shade allows for the stripping out of leaves in the fruiting zone, all but eliminating mildew pressure, eliminating the need for more strategic leaf pulling which requires very skilled crews and can be slow. Open fruiting zone allows for accurate identification of fruit levels and facilitates decisions regarding shoot and fruit thinning. Shade lines mitigate scorching and blistering on green fruit as well as ripening fruit. Shade helps to prevent late season fruit desiccation especially during heat waves. Shade harness assemblies double as bird net platforms allowing for the triangulation of bird net, facilitating delivery and recovery of net. Material gradients within the shade lines provide accurate control of the amount of sun on the crop at different times of the year or day depending on row direction, leading to gains in wine quality.

 Savings with Canopy Pivoting {8 foot centers or wider} vs. VSP

Estimated at 25% per acre, per year.  Downside to a full system of Canopy Pivoting: it can be challenging with 6 foot centers because of congestion between the rows. This can make tractor entrance challenging starting in the spring. Congestion can be mitigated with canopy placement in downward direction, but then the system starts to feel a little more like Vertical Shoot Positioning in terms of early season requirements for labor.  Downside to VSP on any spacing: maximum exposure to the need for labor and fuel. Systematic increase of early-mid season mildew pressure by the wadding of canopy between trellis wires. Systematic increase of mildew and bunch rot (depending on region) due to minimized airflow in the crop zone, and to crop being in closer proximity to humidity emanating from the ground and/or drippers. Systematic difficulty in shade/sun control. Higher requirement for energy and increased wear and tear on equipment during mechanical harvesting. Ergonomic pressures associated with lower fruiting zone.