Wine grape producers are currently caught in a cost vice, which means that costs are increasing much quicker than income. Wine producers therefore have to look at input costs very carefully. The thinning of shoots, or suckering as we know it, nevertheless remains an essential action in many vineyards for the following reasons:

  • Improved sunlight penetration improves fertility and quality. Red grapes that never get any sun, do not colour well.
  • Improved aeration reduces disease pressure, while improving spray penetration.
  • Vigour is channelled into the bearer shoots.
  • Pruning is made considerably easier and faster. In one instance pruners could prune 500 grapevines per day in a block that had been suckered, compared to only 320 where suckering had not taken place.

Hanno van Schalkwyk

VinPro viticultural consultant

Paarl, Wellington & Swartland



Start suckering early when the shoots are 5 – 10 cm in length. On the right unnecessary shoots were removed from the cordons and trunks. Such early treatments make it considerably easier to sucker premium blocks again at a later stage.
In grapevines where the clean prune and final prune actions are spaced far apart, water shoots often develop first, which may dominate the bearer shoots on the spur. Unnecessary water shoots were removed, giving the bearer shoots the opportunity to develop properly. In this instance a shoot was left in place the previous season to enable a renewal cut. Workers who are familiar with the principles and techniques of winter pruning, know which shoots they will require for renewal the following winter. This super premium block is extremely well aerated and illuminated, thanks to timeous suckering actions.

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