Field grafting grapevines in Washington state
Gale, Eric J.
Moyer, Michelle, 1982-
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As with many fruit crops, consumer preference often dictates the varieties of wine grapes grown. Planting a new vineyard to a newly popular variety is a significant investment. The time between variety choice and vineyard planting, until the first partial harvest of fruit, is two to three years; it takes up to five years before a vineyard is at full production. However, an in-vogue variety may fall out of favor well before the investment in a new vineyard has been recouped. Alternatively, within a few years of planting, it may be recognized that a site is not as suitable as was thought during original inspection. Discrepancy between vineyard microclimate and planted varieties are sometimes not evident for many years, at which time producers face the expensive prospect of vineyard replanting or renewal. Field grafting is one strategy that is commonly used in other perennial crops that can help grape growers overcome both the rapid changes in consumer preferences and the less-than-optimal location–variety combinations. Field grafting takes advantage of the established root system of the existing vines, leaving it intact to function as the rootstock, while removing the upper architecture of the plant and replacing it with a more desirable grape variety. With field grafting, the rootstock is generally from one of two conditions: (1) the rootstock is an older vine and the intent is to rapidly change the variety or (2) a rootstock is intentionally planted for field grafting, allowed to develop for a year or two, and then grafted with the scion.