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Rod Pruning of Grapevines

Rod pruning ie pruning a cane to 3 - 7 eyes is a favourite pruning method for grapevines trained as fans, but can also be used on strict cordons. This method ensures a dense distribution of fruiting canes, hence a high fruit yield. In contrast to spur pruning, rod pruning ensures more reliable fruit yields, especially in young, vigorous vines as well as in some older varieties whose near-stem eyes are less fertile. Often rod pruning is combined with spur and cane pruning. Here we illustrate this pruning technique for vines that have been fully trained, if necessary, please peruse first the information under Training in the 1st to 3rd year!

The diagrams below illustrate this pruning technique over several years based on one side shoot position. Other side shoot positions on the trained stem framework have already been established, each about 30 to 60cm apart (Diagram 00). The sequence of diagrams depict how the new side shoot position is developed from one particular shoot which was planned during the training. The same sequence of development applies to a water shoot which grows from the main stem in later years, and from which a new side shoot position will be formed during the rejuvenation / vine renewal process.

 

Rod pruning involves pre-pruning, fruit cane pruning and bending / tying. These steps can occur immediately after each other or in stages over a few days or weeks. For vines on a façade, it is recommended to keep to this sequence: first, all side shoot positions are pre-pruned, the bulk of wood is removed, making the vine immediately more manageable and easy to assess. This also facilitates fruit cane pruning and counting of the 10 - 20 buds per square metre of wall. 

 

The diagrams in the column to the left show the side shoot position after leaf fall in winter and pre-pruning into the old wood (dark brown). Summer pruning has preceded, otherwise the shoots would be much longer. In summer, each cane produced 1 - 2 grape clusters. The diagrams in the centre depict the actual fruit cane pruning into previous year's wood (ochre) and the diagrams in the column to the right show the result.

"Rod with replacement spur", at bud break in spring.
Rod pruning
Diagram 00: Young vine in fan form, the framed section is enlarged in the following diagrams, outline and buds of the observed cane are accentuated.
Pruning sketch

Beginning 4th Year

Diagram 01: A new, well lignified side shoot on a young vine or a water shoot on an old vine on a façade.
Diagram 02: First, the cane is rigorously spur pruned to ensure vigorous bud burst and strong future canes.
Diagram 03: The formed spur.

Beginning 5th Year

Diagram 04: No pre-pruning required, because both shoots of the spur are used: the upper cane will be the fruiting cane for the upcoming summer, while the lower cane will be a replacement or future spur.
Diagram 05: The fruiting cane for the harvest for the year after next (the "replacement cane") will be developed from the separate spur. It is essential that this so-called "replacement spur" is always closer to the main stem than the fruiting rod, so that over the years, the side shoot position remains as close to the stem as possible.
Diagram 06: The completed side shoot position with rod and replacement spur.

Beginning 6th Year

Diagram 07: Ideally, all shoots on the rod produced 1 - 2 grape clusters and are now worn out. The entire rod is cut off into the old wood. Usually the two shoots growing from the spur are so vigorous that they can retain their fruit produced in summer.
Diagram 08: Forming the new rod for the next season and a replacement spur for the season after next. Again the replacement spur must be closer to the stem than the rod. The rod can have up to 7 eyes in this type of pruning.
Diagram 09: Side shoot position after pruning, with rod and replacement spur. There is no need to tie short rods.

Beginning 7th Year

Diagram 10: Ideally, all shoots arising from the rod produced 1 - 2 grapes, and the entire rod is cut off into the old wood.
Diagram 11: Forming the new rod for next season and replacement spur for the season after next. Again, the replacement spur must be closer to the stem than the rod.
Diagram 12: The completed side shoot position with rod and replacement spur.

Beginning 8th Year

Diagram 13: All or several shoots arising from the rod had again 1 - 2 grapes, and the entire rod is removed, cutting right back into the old wood.
Diagram 14: Forming the new rod for next season and replacement spur for the season after next. Again, the replacement spur must be closer to the stem than the rod.
Diagram 15: Rod and replacement spur.