Pathway in a vineyard

Vineyard trellises are an important part of the vineyard design. Without them, it would be difficult to grow grapes and harvest them in a timely manner. A trellis can be any structure that has posts or wires with cross-pieces to support vines for cultivation. These vineyard trellises also play a critical role in helping plants reach up towards sunlight and grow healthy fruit-bearing vines. 

There are many different vineyard trellis designs, and it can be hard to know which one will work best for you. The trellises must match your needs and the style of vines you have planted in order to get the most out of your vineyard trellis system. This blog post will go over some common trellis design styles and what they’re good for.

Top Wire Cordon (TWC)

Top Wire Cordon (TWC) is a common vine trellis system for flat sites. It includes posts, cross arms, and top wire strung from the bottom of the post to the end of each arm at about 60-75% growth. The vines are started up by hand tying which usually happens around mid-May in most climates. The cordon should be kept at 12-18” off the ground. The main advantage of TWC is its low cost and good mechanization for harvesting. 

This vineyard trellis design can also accommodate a wide range of row spacings (from as little as three feet to more than ten feet). It’s mostly recommended for vines with a downward growth tendency, such as Hybrids and American cultivars. Disadvantages include less vine support, so grapes can be more prone to sunburn and wind damage. This is a good trellis and training system for new growers.

Geneva Double Curtain (GDC)

The Geneva Double Curtain (GDC) trellis system is popular for many vineyards. It’s a simple design that can be used with both young and mature vines. The GDC consists of two parallel wires, spaced 12 to 18 inches apart, running the length of the row. Vines are trained to grow between the wires and are pruned to a single cane growing up the row’s center. This type of vineyard trellis design is best for vineyards with medium to high yields.

The GDC system can be adapted to different vineyard layouts, including cordon, goblet, and espalier systems. It’s also easy to install and can be used with both wire and post-and-wire systems. This vineyard trellis system provides more canopy area for downward growing and highly vigorous cultivars. However, it is less effective for cultivars that produce large clusters and berries. Because access to both sides of the canopies is somewhat limited, leaf pulling may be more difficult.

Umbrella Kniffin (UK)

The Umbrella Kniffin (UK) vineyard trellis design uses two wires set at 45 degrees to each other, with vines trained to grow up between them. This trellis system is best suited for warm climates with high winds, as it provides good wind protection for the vineyard. Vine growers can implement a bilateral cane system or quadrilateral cane system with the Umbrella Kniffin (UK) trellis design to increase vine yields.

This trellis design features an arched cane that is longer than a flat-laid cane to allow more buds to be retained. The Umbrella Kniffin (UK) vine trellis design is simple to install and maintain, but it does require more space than some other systems. This system can be used for both cane-pruned vines and spur-pruned plants. However, the open canopy of this vineyard trellis design makes it hard to control weeds, and it does not provide much crop protection. 

Four Arm Kniffin (FAK)

Form Arm Kniffin (FAK) is a four-arm training system that’s popular for small vineyards. The arms are spaced equally on a wire, and the fruiting canes are trained to grow between the arms. This type of trellis is easy to construct and can be adapted to various row spacings. This quadrilateral cane system uses the inexpensive three-wire trellis and features two canes on the top wire and two canes on a mid-wire, allowing for sufficient bud retention. 

The upper two cranes are known to produce more fruit and must be regularly trained to the central leader. FAK can also be used with a single wire on each side of the vine, but this limits production. Leaf pulling is also recommended to expose the fruit to the sun and improve fruit color. The FAK vineyard trellis design works best for grape varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir that require strong sunlight exposure to ripen properly. Shoot skirting and hedging are recommended steps to keep the vines in the FAK tightly together.

Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP)

Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) is a vineyard trellis system that uses a single wire or cable with multiple vertical supports to hold vines in place. The vine is attached to the wire or cable with ties, and as it grows, the shoots are trained to grow up and around the vertical supports. This system is best for grape varieties that have a strong tendency to sprawl, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This system is popular in cooler climates as it helps protect the grape clusters from wind damage. 

close-up photo of ripe grapes

VSP systems are also very efficient for training young vines, as they can be easily attached to the wire or cable. A 9-wire VSP vineyard trellis design is considered one of the most efficient. This system is also very effective at protecting the vines from spring frosts as it can help warm them up during cold nights by trapping heat around the vineyard canopy. The downside of this system is the limited space in between the vines, so it’s not ideal for varieties with large clusters that need plenty of air circulation to ripen properly.

Learn More at Fruit Growers Supply

Vine trellis systems are an important part of vineyard management and can affect the quality and yield of the grapes. With different types of vineyard trellis systems available, it’s important to choose the right one for your vineyard. Whether you’re starting a new vineyard or looking to improve your current system, Fruit Growers Supply can help. We provide a range of supplies and expert resources to improve your fruit production and ensure vine health.

Want to learn more about vineyard trellis design? Our team can help. Contact us today.

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