In light of the winter damage suffered by the majority of Ohio’s vinifera grapes, the Ohio State University’s 2014 Grape and Wine Field Day program included a demonstration of machines used in vineyards across Ohio for hilling up soil around graft unions. I don’t know about all the growers who were there, but having multiple machines in one location demonstrating their abilities was enlightening. (Psst – if you were there and made a decision on a machine due to the demonstration, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!)
There are a few things to keep in mind when one is trying to decide how best to manage cold climate viticulture, especially when it comes to hilling up. There are many ways to go about protecting vines and graft unions from cold damage, and it certainly bears repeating that site and variety selection will go a long way in protecting you vineyard investment. Assuming all other factors have been considered and mitigated, what’s the best way to prevent winter injury in the graft union? Hilling soil around the delicate union, which growers in Ohio have been doing for decades. What’s the best way to hill up around graft unions? Depends on the soil type, slope, and machine/equipment being used, and each grower will need to consider these factors to select the best strategy. I managed to get in the way of a bunch of folks and take some videos and pictures last week, so I’ll lay the pictures out here for your perusal.
Rinieri Disk ($10,000-$15,000)
Unverferth Maximus Disk 6525
Clover Hill Disk ($3,800 – $4,000)
Braun LUV disk ($7,500 – $8,000)
Green Hoe ($3,300 – $3.500)
Buckeye Tractor’s Bedder/Hiller* ($2,900 – $$3,500)This demonstration was done at St. Joseph’s Pinot Vista vineyards and Harpersfield Vineyards. Kurt Ackerman from Buckeye Tractor brought 4 units, all configured a little differently. Along with feedback from the growers at the demonstration, he kindly adjusted and re-adjusted the disks and tool bars until the optimal configuration of angles was determined for the best graft union coverage. Below are some images from that demonstration (Sept. 25, 2014). Ranging from $2900 to $3500, this disk option certainly provided a great deal of flexibility at a low cost.
*The KSUA Wine Degrees Program does not endorse any one disk over another. We just have more information on the BT Bedder/Hiller because we were able to spend nearly an entire day with the Buckeye Tractor representative who graciously adjusted and re-adjusted the disks for different sites.
Want to read more on OSU’s hilling up demonstration efforts? Check out the latest OGEN newsletter!