Mechanical vineyard pruner

Now I know that I said that I wouldn’t get behind this spring on posting about the vineyards and other crops, but I did. We have had all kinds of music goings on and a wedding. We have just been busy. So here are some pictures that I took at the beginning of April. If I get a little mixed up on my verb tenses, you’ll just have to bear with me.

Here is the vineyard. (Or rather how the vineyard looked on April 9th.) Of course this was before the buckets of rain that we had in the spring and the tub loads of rain that we got last weekend. In fact today, I took pictures of the hedger running. The hedger takes off the excess canopy of leaves and vines when they get to thick. Here the vines looked a little scraggly and bare, but that’s the way we wanted it to look till we were sure that we were past the last freeze of the year.

This year we had our last freeze on April 8th. Our goal was to not have a lot of buds get frozen by a late freeze and thus lose a crop. Most of our vine had bud break between April 8th and approximately April 20th, some even later than that.

Buds are what we are looking for in the spring. Not quite sure how to get the best close-up shots of buds.

This is how most of our vines and buds were looking about the 9th of April.

Every once in a while you come across buds that are more developed like these.

So now is the time that we need to be finishing up our pre-pruning which is getting rid of the old growth that we don’t want on the vines in order to encourage the new growth that we do want. So bring on the pre-pruner.

The pre-pruner comes along and cuts off the long scraggly pieces that would just be a burden and not productive areas to grow grapes.

Notice how close the big blue cutting barrels are to each other on both sides of the tractor.

Then the beauty of this machine is that you can spread those cutters apart in order to stop cutting and move around hard metal objects like the yellow end posts that you don’t want to run into.

Then you just close her back up as you pass like the cutter on the right is closing. So how does it know what to do? There is a metal detector that senses the metal and moves the blades apart to miss the metal. Our kids seem to be really interested in any kind of new technology that lessens the work load and has anything mechanical to it.

But this machine does need some human influences. The tractor still has three brains running the whole operation. Although some people wonder if my kids have many brains at all, but I guess they have enough to get by. For this operation you need a tractor driver and two brains behind on the pre-pruner to work the claws. Even though the metal detector senses when a metal pole is coming up, the humans need to set the speed to keep thing moving along at the right speed.

Once more in case you missed it, we’ll try it from a little different angle. You start with this kind of scraggly mess.

Hmmm, I don’t really, really think that he will run his mother over, but who knows. Let’s see.

See how the cutters are close together.

Now the cutters are separating in order to get around a t-post.

And closing back again.

Opening around the post.

And closing up again.

See the t-posts that the machine is trying to miss.

Going around a t-post there.

Cutting away again. Wait a minute, someone is yelling for them to stop.

Hmmm, the cutters cut a wire from the trellis system. That has to be fixed.

The guys try to avoid the wires that you see at the bottom of the barrels, but as you just saw sometime it doesn’t work out too smoothly.

Woops, this time they caught a t-post. Let’s take a closer look.

Yep, pulled that t-post right out of the ground.

Hmmm, time to get it all untangled and put back in the ground where it needs to be.

After a row is done, the ends of the row look scraggily where the pre-pruner can’t get too close to the end posts without having to open up, but the rest looks good.

Here are some vines that have been pre-pruned.

The barrels can be adjusted to leave different amounts of vine tips.

Now the vines are ready for that personal human touch where our workers go through the fields and finish off pruning each vine by hand.

And then we put a few hearts into the ground, since we try to put a little love in everything we do.

Blessings, Betty

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