Monthly Archives :

July 2019

Case Study: Darcy Gander – Vine-Works

Case Study: Darcy Gander – Vine-Works 1000 667 Sectormentor

Vine-Works was founded by James Dodson and Darcy Gander and has been establishing, managing, maintaining and supporting vineyards across the UK for over a decade. They work with single growers, small businesses, farmers, landowners and some of the country’s largest wine producers, providing a complete range of vineyard management and technical services from concept to harvest.

Vine-Works has just started to offer a vineyard management service for small to medium scale vineyards who can’t reasonably have a full time vineyard manager. As part of the service a Vine-Works technical officer will come out to the vineyard 12-16 times a year to ensure that the vineyard is well managed and an experienced independent viticulturist is monitoring important vineyard indicators. They help with deciding how much fruit to drop, what to do for disease management and getting good yield predictions – all the key activities throughout the year.

Of course this type of vineyard monitoring and management takes time but it is extremely valuable information! Many people don’t realise just how important it is to ensure that you do a good quality bunch count, and record bunch weights at harvest in order to get a good yield prediction – this data is invaluable, an asset to the vineyard.

The Vine-Works team are using Sectormentor so that they can easily record the information they need in each season to better manage vineyards for their clients. For example, just as flowering sets in, Technical Officer – Matt – will go out to a number of random sample vines in each block and count the number of inflorescences on the vine, he enters that number for one vine and then the next, and so on. Some weeks later he goes out again and counts the number of bunches, giving a good indication of fruit set – and starting one of the most important metrics of the year – the yield prediction. This information automatically feeds into the Sectormentor Yield Predictor Tool so that a rough initial yield prediction can easily be reached, and then optimised as the season progresses.

“All viticulturalists and vineyard managers collect data in their day to day activities, this data could be perceived as the vine’s method of communicating with us, be it pruning weights to illustrate cropping potential or interveinal discolouring to show nutrient deficiency. By collecting this information we can have a greater insight into a vine’s health.

Historically, vineyard managers have recorded this type of information in notebooks but by collecting data digitally we can quickly turn measurements into viticultural information. This can further be translated into quick and easy-to-read graphics so we can provide an instant response-based vineyard management service.”

Darcy Gander, Vine-Works

Sectormentor also allows for easy data sharing amongst the Vine-Works team, so they can make full use of all of their expertise. For example, Matt sees a leaf that looks a bit unusual in the vineyard, he takes a photo in Sectormentor, records its location, and carries on with his scouting looking for disease and pest pressure around the vineyard. He can send a message to the rest of the team so they can immediately and easily look at the photo of the issue on the Sectormentor dashboard and give their feedback on what they think it might be. Sectormentor is also hugely beneficial to the vineyard owners, because they can login to the dashboard at any time and see what has been happening on the vineyard – plus they know that all the vital information such as phenological dates, bunch weights and much more are stored and accessible in one place. This kind of information is an important asset to the vineyard, and storing it in this way brings the power of the data to the vineyard owner as well as the manager.

Working with Abby, Inti and the team has always been a pleasure. They’re driven, insightful and reliable and we look to working with them long term. Sectormentor has enabled us to cover more ground, analyse data quickly and make informed management decisions immediately. We have been impressed by how much time we save using Sectormentor and how it efficiently and effectively helps us to deliver our vineyard management service.

– Joel Jorgensen, Vine-Works

We are excited to be working with the Vine-Works team to introduce some of our recommended soil health monitoring into the service as well. Due to the damp conditions in the UK managing vines more ecologically can be quite tricky – but focusing on building soil structure through increased biological activity in the soil can really help to guide you in creating a more ecological and diverse vineyard system. Vine-Works aims to introduce this soil health monitoring to the vineyards who want to focus on more ecological farming methods.

We look forward to continuing our journey with Vine-Works! If their service or Sectormentor for Vines sounds interesting to you do get in touch here.

Know your vines #6: Optimise your yield prediction and the power of our Yield Predictor Tool – PART 1

Know your vines #6: Optimise your yield prediction and the power of our Yield Predictor Tool – PART 1 3024 4032 Sectormentor

In our Know your Vines blog series we share practical tips on what metrics to monitor in your vineyard. This is the sixth instalment, stay tuned for more as the seasons unfold! “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.


Use flower and bunch counts to optimise yield prediction

July is the perfect time for many vineyard owners to do bunch counts, as the grapes are forming. An accurate bunch count gets you about half way there to optimising your yield prediction. Getting your yield prediction as accurate as possible is important for small and medium scale commercial vineyards – it’s a great help for the winemakers to know in advance how much they will have of each type of grape, and how much tank space is likely to be taken up. If you get really good at optimising your yield prediction you can consistently get your prediction accurate to within 5% of your actual yield. It’s well worth it!

Luke Spalding, vineyard manager at Everflyht Vineyard, told us: “without a good yield prediction it can create a lot of stress for the vineyard team, as harvesting time can get out of control. Importantly, it also creates stress in the winery when you don’t know how much is coming in or when the harvest is going to stop!”.

We’ve come to realise that each year, yield prediction is a journey, a step by step process of optimisation, learning and understanding. With our new Yield Predictor tool it is possible to save and update yield predictions throughout the season as you gather information on your vines. In this part 1 of our yield prediction blogs we will share how to hone your prediction by getting the bunch counts right, and in part 2 we will talk about getting your bunch weights as accurate as possible from lag phase (or veraison) onwards.

Yield predictions for different blocks of vines as they progress through the season

First prediction: Inflorescence counts
You may have already started out with a ballpark figure for this year’s yield using inflorescence counts combined with the average weight for each variety-clone block from previous years. This is really easy to do in the Sectormentor Yield Predictor – you just go out and count inflorescences at a number of sample vines out in the vineyard – entering the counts in the app quickly and easily as you go. Then when you log into your account online the Yield Predictor will automatically show you the average inflorescences for each block and the total predicted yield for each block. At this stage you’re working with a fairly crude estimate, but it gets you going!

Sectormentor Yield Predictor tool using flower counts

Second prediction: Bunch counts at flower set
Next, once flower set is complete you can go out and count your bunches, allowing you to see if you have any issues with fruit set (as we talked about here). At this point you can also do your second yield prediction (easy to do in the Sectormentor Yield Predictor) now based on bunch counts — you’re getting closer, and your yield prediction can help you to make a decision on how much you want to thin your grapes (or green harvest).

Thinning the crop is a decision based on craft – you want to optimise yield while ensuring that your not putting strain on the vines. We realise that this is a bit of a balancing act – and this post covers some of the concerns. If you do decide to thin the fruit at this point, you’ll need to go out and do another bunch count afterwards to ensure you know how many bunches you still have. This may feel over the top, but unless you’ve thinned all the vines yourself, it is unreliable to assume exactly the number of bunches you wanted to remove, have actually been removed. The bunch count is the easiest thing to get right, so it’s worth making sure it’s as accurate as possible.

Fine tune your prediction with an updated bunch count after thinning
Every time you do a new bunch count you can do a new yield prediction using the Yield Predictor tool. The tool will automatically update the averages for each new count, as well as remember the bunch weights you entered last time – so it’s really quick to update your prediction and make any minor tweaks! You can also compare your current prediction to predictions you made earlier in the season, to see how the grapes are progressing, and we have a handy graph to show how the total estimated yield has changed, as well as the yield for each individual block.

Everything so far has been about ensuring we get the average number of bunches as accurate as possible. All the estimates have been based on using average bunch weights from previous years – in part 2 of this post we will look at the next steps on the yield estimate journey – getting your estimated bunch weight as accurate as possible for this season. This process starts at the lag phase (just before veraison).

Check out 10 key metrics to monitor in your vineyard and find out how our app Sectormentor for Vines helps you record data & manage your vines for the best quality grapes.

Know your vines #5: The value of understanding fruit set

Know your vines #5: The value of understanding fruit set 2000 1333 Sectormentor

In our Know your Vines blog series we will share practical tips on what metrics to monitor in your vineyard. This is the fifth instalment, stay tuned for more as the coming seasons unfold!

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”


The value of knowing % Fruit Set

The buds have burst, flowering is over (or almost over)…the caps are off and the grapes are beginning to form – we are well and truly into another season and the countdown to harvest has begun, yet again! We wanted to tell you a bit about % fruit set and why this a useful metric. If you did an inflorescence count prior to flowering then it’s very easy to determine what % of your inflorescences have “set” fruit.

Photo: Vines just finished flowering – fruit set just starting…

Fruit set is vital in the phenological progression of the vine, as it is the moment that the fruit actually comes into being -it’s the first indicator of how abundant (or not) the harvest might be. Knowing the % fruit set helps you to know if the vine is out of balance or if something went wrong at this point and you need to do things differently in future years.

Of course, a key factor that affects fruit set is outside of our control – the weather! High winds and heavy rain, or worse frost, can really ruin the ability for the flowers to turn into fruit. But management decisions, as well as reduced vine health, can also have a negative effect on fruit set so this is an indicator it’s important to know and learn from. 

“We monitor fruit set to make sure we are managing the vineyard as effectively as possible. You have to be very careful during flowering, especially with any sprays, it can be very delicate and you can cause poor fruit set. So we always check % fruit set to learn and improve our management in following years.” Joel, Vine-Works

Poor fruit set in vines can be due to carbohydrate supply, water supply and mineral imbalance. Here is a nice description of how and why from a US vineyard outreach officer: ‘Deficiencies of any of the essential mineral nutrients (e.g Zinc, Boron) can affect fruit set detrimentally.  Unbalanced C:N status of the vine can also result in poor flower development and fruit set. Overly vigorous (lower C:N ratio) or weak vines (higher C:N ratio) with insufficient or in-efficient leaf area (e.g. due to herbicide damage, insect feeding, disease attack)  tend to have reduced fruit set and loose clusters.’ (Reference)

It’s also the case that different varieties are more/less likely to set all their fruit and so starting to understand different varietal and block behaviours with fruit set helps to build up a picture of those vines over time and optimise vineyard management based on the expected fruit set – it also means you can pay special attention to any areas of the vineyard that are particularly susceptible at flowering. “Flower set is dependent on the weather but some varieties are more prone to poor fruit set in certain conditions. When we count inflorescences, we assume 100% fruit set. In August when we count bunches post flowering we then update the yield prediction. And also determine the % fruit set so we can manage the blocks accordingly going foward.” Will Davenport, Davenport Vineyards.

How to calculate fruit set?

Go out and do an inflorescence count as the flowers come into bloom. Then sometime after flowering is all finished, and the caps have blown off, go out and count the number of bunches. ‘No. of bunches’ divided by the ‘No. of inflorescences’ will give you the % fruit set. Using Sectormentor makes this easy:

Monitoring with Sectormentor:
Sectormentor makes it easy to record inflorescence counts and bunch counts at the touch of a button on your smartphone out in the vineyard. All the information you record is available as soon as you get back to the office. There you can easily see the % fruit set for each block and this is recorded year on year, so you can start to build up a picture of each block and how the fruit sets for that specific clone, variety, location. This is about really knowing your vines!

 


Check out 10 key metrics to monitor in your vineyard and find out how our app Sectormentor helps you record data & manage your vines to build ecology, profitability and beauty for your vineyard.