The best time of the year for vineyard owners, as well as the busiest and the most critical period of the year, has begun. While some winegrowers have already started with the grape harvest, others are still a month away from this moment. Although every harvest is slightly different, which is the beauty of working with nature, it’s also true that this one vineyard activity differs across the world. However, two things are in common for all grape harvests – careful planning and good work organization are critical to a successful and trouble-free harvest.

To help vineyard owners with the upcoming harvest, we are sharing some useful tips and resources:

1. Monitor grape ripeness

Monitoring grape ripeness by randomly sampling grapes from each plot is the best way to determine the harvest date. As grape ripening is influenced by numerous factors and vary between varieties, locations, and years periodically sampling berries throughout the grape development stage between veraison and berry maturation is a great way to track the ripening process. About four weeks before the predicted harvest date, sampling frequency needs to increase not to miss the technological maturity of the grapes – the time when berries achieve the ideal levels of acidity and sugar ripeness for the desired style of wine.

Read also: How to know when the grapes are ready to harvest?

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A refractometer is one of the most common tools of winegrowers to measure the amount of sugar in the grapes.

2. Check the weather forecast regularly

As ripening of the grapes is a continuous process and is strongly influenced by the weather, there is only a short period during which the berries remain within the desired ripeness parameters and need to be harvest. Checking the weather forecast regularly before the harvest is crucial to plan the harvest date.

3. Monitor and control pests

Just before the harvest, not only that birds, raccoons, deer, etc., crave juicy berries, berries skin can crack from rain, and bird pecks which can lead to rotting. Once berries sugar content exceeds 8%, injured berry become increasingly susceptible to invasion by a wide variety of naturally occurring fungi, such as Botrytis which can cause major problems, especially on berries of grape varieties with gentle skin. While also intense fertilization with nitrogen and wet weather before the harvest can accelerate rotting. Therefore close monitoring of the grapes weeks before the harvest and taking measures to reduce the disease and pest spread, if necessary, is key to harvest healthy grapes.

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Photo (smart-net-systems.com):Using nets to protect ripe grapes from wildlife animals, such as birds and deers.

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Photo (by Jay W. Pscheidt): Examples of Botrytis Bunch Rot on white grapes variety.

4. Clean and tidy up everything

Cleaning all the equipment for harvestings, such as buckets, containers, and clippers is crucial for a smooth harvesting process. The same goes for all the winemaking equipment so that grapes can go directly into the winemaking process. Washing and preparing all equipment before harvest is a must for a successful and trouble-free vintage. The same goes for vineyards, a day or two before the harvest date is important to tidy up the vineyard, especially if the grapes are hand-picked, in order to maximize pickers’ efficiency.

5. Excels work organization

Having a good work organization in place is crucial for a smooth work process and happy pickers, especially in this Covid-19 time when several protective measures need to be in place to protect workers and prevent further spread of the virus. Good vineyard work organization during the epidemic consists of keeping the distance, use of protective equipment, prioritizing, and using technology to better plan the work and automate several activities in case of workers shortage. While the most important aspect of a good work organization is to keep a good relationship with workers and motivate them.

As hand-picking grapes is one of the most intensive, expensive, and time-consuming vineyard work activity, having a good organization of harvest process and paying pickers fairly is crucial. During harvest time, a tool like the eVineyard Harvesting app helps vineyard managers track the harvesting process, calculates payrolls for seasonal workers based on their performance in real-time on any device. Learn how one winery uses the eVineyard Harvesting app to track more than 150 pickers and save 40 hours of work during each harvest month compared to the previous “pen and paper combined with the excel” method.

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Photo (by Vindemia Winery): Having a good work organization at harvest time is crucial, especially if hiring many seasonal workers.

Getting ready for the grape harvest is not an easy task. It requires a lot of careful planning weeks ahead, from monitoring the grape ripeness process and controlling pests to following the weather forecast, especially the last days before the harvest. Cleaning all the equipment for harvest and grape processing also requires a certain amount of time and thus needs to be planned carefully. While having in place, a good work organization supported with technology is vital so that everybody knows their responsibilities and duties, from the first to the last day of harvest.

Read also: Top 5 tips to better organize the harvest for small grape growers

Source:
Grape Harvest Preparation, by Bruce Bordelon (online) on purdue.edu
Harvest Preparation, by Dr. Murli Dharmadhikari (online) on iastate.edu
Grape – Summer Bunch Rot (Sour Rot) (online) on uncanr.edu
Featured image: by Lasseter Winery