During the mid to late 1980s in the Salinas Valley (Monterey County) of California, susceptible own-rooted vineyards infested with grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) were replanted to wine grape cultivars grafted on resistant rootstocks and the use of potted green-growing benchgrafts as planting stock became a more common practice compared with the traditional field grown dormant bare rooted benchgrafted vines. Green-growing plants are grafted, callused, placed in a pot, and then are greenhouse grown. They are acclimated to outdoor conditions before planting in the same year they are grafted. Dormant bare rooted benchgrafts are grafted, callused, and then are field grown in a nursery row and are dug in the late fall or winter and are held in cold storage until delivery to the planting site (Hartmann et al., 1997; Winkler et al., 1974). When using green-growing vines a high percent plant loss and vines with poor growth during the first year can increase the time required to fully train vines, and the time required to achieve full production potential of the vineyard. Poor growth of green-growing benchgrafts can be attributed to poor root development, the lack of adequate hardening-off of the green leaf tissue before planting, high air temperatures at planting, or post-plant management practices (L.J. Bettiga, personal observation). Irrigation practice is critical and both excessive and insufficient amounts of applied water can result in poor growth (Beede and Christensen, 2000). The extensive winds in the Salinas Valley are also a major factor in the stress seen in green-growing benchgrafted plants. Winds in the Salinas Valley have been shown to reduce total vine canopy growth (Bettiga et al., 1996).
During training, the rate of development of the permanent structures (trunk and cordons) of a vine and in what year after planting crop production will begin, depends on vine vigor and capacity. Vine vigor is a measure of the rate of vine growth, whereas, vine capacity is the total annual vegetative and fruit biomass produced and reflects the vines ability for total production rather than rate of activity (Winkler et al., 1974). Thus, vine capacity is difficult to measure since it requires an annual determination of total vine growth. In commercial grape production, annual pruning weight is often used to estimate vine capacity (Reynolds, 2010). Partridge (1925) was an early proponent of using pruning weight to indicate a vines capacity in the following season. In addition to vigor and pruning weights, visual assessment of trunk and cordon diameter at dormancy is a common practice used during the pruning of young vines to determine the rate of development of the permanent framework and thus the severity of the pruning to be performed during training (Winkler et al., 1974).
Viticulture production texts have stated that the postplanting care of green-growing benchgrafts is critical to its successful use in developing vineyards (Beede and Christensen, 2000; Winkler et al., 1974). Yet, there are very little published data on the development of grafted vines as a function of different nursery practices, but such data could be very useful for growers who may now purchase several types of planting stock. The purpose of this study was to evaluate growth and yield of grapevines during the initial years after planting and determine how performance was affected by benchgraft type and vine vigor as influenced by rootstock.
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