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Pruning And Training Muscadine Grapes

The Muscadine grapes of the South are so distinct in characters of
growth and fruit-bearing that their requirements as to pruning and
training are quite different from the methods so far given. Until
recent years when these grapes have become of commercial importance,
it was thought by southern vineyardists that the Muscadines needed
little or no pruning and some held that pruning injured the vines. Now
it is found that Muscadines respond quite as readily as other types of
grapes to pruning and training. Husmann and Dearing[15] give following
directions for pruning Muscadines:

"Two systems of training are employed with Muscadine grapes: (1) The
horizontal or overhead system, by which the growth is spread as an
overhead canopy about 7 feet above the ground and supported by posts;
and (2) the upright or vertical system, in which the growth is spread
over a trellis.

"In the overhead system a single trunk is caused to grow erect from
the ground alongside a permanent post. When the vine has reached the
top of the post it is pinched in or cut back, so as to make it throw
out shoots to grow and spread out from the head of the vine as the
spokes of a wheel radiate from the hub. (The overhead training of
Muscadines is shown in Fig. 21; upright training, in Fig. 22.)


"In the upright systems the fruiting arms are either radiated from a
low vine head, like the ribs of a fan, or they are taken off as
horizontal arms from a central vertical trunk.

"Where the vineyard is not given close personal attention and pruning
and other vineyard practices are neglected the best results will be
obtained with the overhead trellis. Moreover, such a trellis permits
cross-plowing and cultivation and is better adapted for grazing hogs,
sheep, or cattle on cover crops grown in the vineyard. On the other
hand, the careful vineyardist can expect the best and earliest results
from vines on the upright or vertical supports. The upright trellis
facilitates pruning, harvesting, spraying, and intercropping
throughout the life of the vineyard; it is also easier to repair and
can be erected from $10 to $20 an acre cheaper than the overhead
trellis. The use of both the upright system and the overhead trellis
has netted the growers profitable returns. Each has its advantages and
disadvantages. The prospective grower, knowing his own conditions,
must determine which training system is best suited to his conditions.

renewal method.]

"During the first year after planting, a strong stake reaching 4 feet
above the ground at each vine is sufficient support. A trellis should
be erected the second season, though the upper wires of an upright
trellis and the secondary wires of an overhead trellis may be added
later, as the vines need them. In erecting an upright trellis the
posts should be set midway between the vines, the distances apart
varying with the distances between the plants. The end posts of the
rows should be firmly braced. Three wires are generally used, placed
24, 42, and from 56 to 60 inches from the ground.

"In erecting an overhead trellis, the usual method is to place a
substantial, durable post reaching 7 feet above the ground at each of
the permanent vines. Rows of extra heavy, well-braced posts, running
parallel with and also at the ends of the rows of vines, are set at
the boundaries of the vineyard. There are a number of different ways
of arranging the wires. Usually No. 10 galvanized wires are securely
fastened to the tops of the boundary posts on the four sides of a
vineyard and then are run along and securely fastened on the tops of
the inside post down each row in both directions as governor wires. As
needed, No. 14 wires 2 feet apart are run parallel with the governor
wires until in this manner the entire area has been covered.

"A cheaper but less durable overhead trellis is made by running No. 9
governor wires in only one direction and the secondary wires only at
right angles to the governor wires, the secondary wires being fastened
to the governor wires wherever they cross.

"Some growers construct arbors entirely of wood, using slats or poles
instead of wires.

"The pruning of Muscadine grapes during the first three years is
mainly for the purpose of establishing the permanent parts and
adjusting the other parts of the vine to the desired training system
for future usefulness. After that the pruning is primarily a matter of
renewing the bearing surface and keeping the vines healthy, vigorous,
and productive.

"During the first season the trunk of the vine should be established.
From this the main fruiting branches are started the second season.
These, under favorable circumstances, will bear a small crop of fruit
the third season. After that the purpose of pruning should be to renew
growth, to increase or decrease the bearing surface, and to maintain
the shape of the vine.

"Severe pruning usually removes most of the fruit-bearing wood and
throws the vine into vigorous wood growth. No pruning, on the other
hand, causes a growth which is too much distributed, weak, and
incapable of bearing good crops. Therefore, the grape grower should
study the vines sufficiently to enable him to judge each year the
proper severity of pruning for the best results. This will depend on
the variety, the age of the vines, the fertility of the soil, etc.
Muscadine grapes bear their fruit in small clusters. It is therefore
necessary to maintain a large fruiting surface in order to secure a
proper tonnage of fruit. This is accomplished by developing a series
of fruiting arms, spurring along these, and lengthening them as the
vines become stronger. Such fruiting arms can be maintained for a
number of years, but after a time it is desirable to renew them. This
is done by cutting out the arm and starting a new one from a cane that
has been previously grown for such purposes. It is preferable to renew
systematically only one or, at most, two arms on a vine each year.
This gradual renewal does not disturb the vigor of the vine, but keeps
it productive, healthy, and strong. The pruning can be quickly and
easily done if systematically practiced from the time the vines are

Next: Rejuvenating Old Vines

Previous: Training On Arbors Pergolas And As Ornamentals

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