This is the last of the eight pages supporting our definition of organic grape growing. This does not mean that the activity covered here is performed at the end of the growing season. It is an add-on description of a very simple task which should be repeated every season by all grape growers shortly after berry set, and one which organic grape growers should understand as being an integral part of their management approach.
With tongue in cheek, we have put the word organic at the end of the title to make it clear that this page is a part of the organic section. The truth is, however, that there is no such thing -currently- as non-organic fruit zone and canopy management. There are some mechanical devices called hedgers and leaf pullers, and there is some clone research ongoing designed to improve certain vine characteristics such as looser clusters. All-in-all, this vineyard activity is a basic hands on task for avoiding pests and assuring fruit quality.
If you installed and trained your vines to a trellising system which separates fruit zone from canopy, you are ahead of the game. If you limit your spray applications for pest control to protective coatings and contact killers, you must manage the canopy and fruit zone in a manner which assures spray penetration to the fruit zone especially and the canopy secondarily.
Excessive shading of fruit may require removal of leaves to assure air, sunlight and spray material penetration. The hows and whens of doing this are discussed on our other Grapeseek page, "Ripening Fruit" in the Post Bloom section.
Canopy consists of shoot growth beyond the fruit zone. The only thing you have to do is assure that it is one: a Canopy and not a jungle-like intermingling of fruit zone and non-bearing green shoots and foliage. You manage canopy with trellis design, pruning and training methods and, perhaps, as Muhammed Ali says, "Different strokes for different folks" (some varieties require less attention than others).
Spraying equipment can substantially enhance your ability to make protective and contact killers work for you. If you are a back yard grower with a back pack sprayer, concentrate your energies and materials on the fruit zone and the clusters. Watch the canopy for signs of trouble, but don't over react to isolated signs of fungal pests on foliage. Keep the canopy loose and elevated well above the fruit zone.
If you grow more than two acres of grapes, buy an air blast sprayer. Between 1/4 and 2 acres, use a tractor mounted or tow-behind sprayer and aim the nozzles to provide no more than ten to 20 percent of the material to the canopy.
The current definitive work on the topic of fruit zone and canopy management is the book mentioned on the "Ripening Fruit" page, Sunlight Into Wine, by Richard Smart and Mike Robinson. It is available on-line, and may be ordered by clicking on the book icon on the Home Page.
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