How do you go about establishing a new vineyard? Know your soil, choose top-quality plant material and be aware of pitfalls when planting your vines.

This was the message at a recent technical day in Vredendal where specialists emphasised the importance of proper soil analysis and preparation when planning to plant vines. The event was hosted by Vititec in conjunction with VinPro, Winetech and Stephen du Plessis Earthmoving.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Perform a proper soil analysis by making profile pits throughout the area. Knowing the soil type and form you’re dealing with, enables you to determine which cultivar and soil preparation technique is required. A chemical analysis indicates which corrections must be made.

A demonstration at the farm Voorsorg near Vredendal shed light on effective mixing during soil preparation, the application of ameliorants such as lime or phosphate, salinity and compaction.

Terrain maps indicating slope, aspect, solar radiation, the direction and accumulation of water flow, daylight length and altitude provide invaluable information to guide you when planning a new vineyard block.

Once a decision has been made about the specific cultivar suited to the area, top-quality plant material needs to be sourced. Vititec CEO Nico Spreeth emphasised the importance of planting vines that are free of harmful viruses. Vititec, which specialises in grapevine improvement and propagation, has for instance been involved in a programme that addresses the management of leafroll virus.

VinPro viticulturist Gert Engelbrecht said producers should be aware of certain pitfalls when planting new vines. Planting holes may not have been made correctly, which could lead to a ‘pot plant’ effect in vine roots. The roots are unable to penetrate a compacted layer made by a shovel.

Vines are often not placed in the middle of the holes, which results in them growing in a J formation. Don’t over-irrigate your vines from the get-go and make sure the young vines are trained according to their growth potential.

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