Craig Edwards, owner of Lodi-based Acampo Machine Works, lives and breathes vineyard equipment. His company designs and builds equipment for vineyards in California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada.
Edwards came to a conference at Fresno State with a tall order in hand: review all the pros and cons of various types of equipment for maintaining minimally pruned orchards.
His goal: to show growers how to grow a thriving vineyard on the “high wire.”
“High wire is basically a 66-inch cordon,” Edwards said. “And every year you cut it back to a box.”
His team started at square one to develop best practices for high wire winegrape growing.
“We said, 'OK, we’re going to do a box and have a cordon, and we’re going to cut it back to 8 inches every year,'” Edwards said. “We know it’s impossible because we’ve seen other vineyards, and it’s a bird’s nest—but that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
That meant first trimming away brush, then doing pre-pruning.
For that task he recommended growers use a high-speed spinning knife, seen below. Sickles and double sickles, he said, move the canes, which can cause unwanted damage.
Another good alternative is high-speed saw blades. Edwards called them the “holy grail” of pre-pruning but said they require lots of sharpening.
As vines age, sensors can be used to allow for pruning automation, Edwards said. Not so for young vines, which must be pruned with manually controlled equipment.
That means trellis systems that are easy to navigate.
“As we go into minimal prune, you have to keep your trellis system maintained,” he told the crowd. “You have to care—you have to.”