“We set this up to be a no-touch vineyard,” Kurtural said. “All the cultural practices are done by machine.”
Kurtural's original intent was to help farmers deal with labor shortages, but the trial also produced superior winegrapes.
“When I took the job at the University of California, the labor situation started to get worse,” Kurtural said. “If we didn't have people to prune grapes, we weren't able to finish pruning. So we said, ‘We are a research station, let's develop a solution.'”
In the research vinyard:
- A machine equipped with telemetry and GPS sensors prunes the vines
- Soil and canopy data are collected manually
- Spurs and suckers are thinned with a specially designed pruner
- Clusters are thinned mechanically
- The grapes are harvested mechanically
“We can do all the practices mechanically now,” he said. “There was no economic need to do this previously, but now there is.”
Kurtural attributes the winegrape quality improvements to the tall canopy, which protects grapes from sun damage. The system also uses less water.
For complete details, watch a 40-minute lecture by Kaan Kutural online