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New vineyard expansion supports teaching and trellising

When it came time to plant new vines at the WSU teaching vineyard early this summer, dozens of people in the wine business arrived at WSU Tri-Cities ready to dig in.

The crew planted about 800 vines of Syrah grapes and installed new irrigation systems at the campus vineyard, which now spans 1.5 acres. They donated their time, grapes, and all the tools needed to establish the new vineyard block: tractors, forklifts, hammers, shovels, drills–even the nuts and bolts.

The crew from Sagemoor Vineyards helps plant the new vines at WSU Tri-Cities teaching vineyard. Photo courtesy Bhaskar Bondada.

The expansion will not only support students as they train to become leaders in vineyard management, but it will also provide an opportunity to explore the different ways vines are trained around the world.

Grapevines cannot be grown commercially without some form of trellis system, which is constructed according to their training systems, said WSU grapevine physiologist and associate professor, Bhaskar Bondada. A trellis system holds up the vines and supports its framework, facilitating various cultural practices towards optimizing yield and fruit quality attributes.

Trellis systems are most commonly classified based on how they accommodate shoot growth. They can be vertical, divided, freestanding, have a single layer of canopy or multiple layers of canopy. Bondada said because Syrah is a popular variety and grows vigorously, it’s an ideal cultivar for trellis research and understanding the influence of different trellises on grape production, and ultimately wine quality, in southwest Washington.

“We can educate students about different trellis systems adopted around the world, how they are designed, their canopy characteristics, and how the different systems impact fruit and wine quality,” Bondada said.

The new vineyard block is funded by the Washington Wine Industry Foundation and lies just outside the Wine Science Center, which will open in early 2015. The following are popular trellis systems (will link to full article) commonly adopted worldwide for commercial grape production and that will be trained in the next three to four years at the WSU teaching vineyard:

  • VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) system: This system is practiced throughout the world. As the name indicates, inthis system, shoots are vertically positioned by tucking the shoots between catch wires resulting in undivided canopies that resemble hedgerows (all the grapes grow in a straight line in one row of vertically-grown shoots).


  • Goblet (Bush vine/free-standing): This training method is very old and has been used since ancient times. Goblet trained vines are very common in warmer regions such as Rhone valley of southern France and some areas in California (used for Zinfandel).  In this system, the vines are trained to be self-supporting and are kept low. The spurs are arranged on a short arm in a circle at the top of a short trunk, the foliage is unsupported.

goblet1   goblet3

  • Geneva Double Curtain (GDC): GDC was originally developed by Dr. Nelson Shaulis at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY for concord grapes to reduce shade within a dense canopy system. The system is normally spur pruned to downward positioned spurs. GDC is a horizontally divided canopy with shoots trained downwards into two distinct parallel free hanging curtains (layers of canopy) with the fruiting zone positioned at the top of the canopy.

geneva  geneva2

  • Lyre system: It was developed in Bordeaux in the early 1980’s by Dr. Alain Carbonneau (now a professor of viticulture with Montpellier SupAgro, France).  It has been described as a horizontally divided inverted GDC. So, in this system, the shoots are trained upwards to form two curtains which are spaced apart at the base and inclined slightly outwards. The system can be either spur pruned or cane pruned.



  • Guyot system:  Named after Dr. Jules Guyot, a nineteenth century French scientist is one of the oldest examples.  It resembles goblet, but unlike goblet, it has a support system (wires). The Guyot is a unilateral cane pruned system with a replacement spur (single Guyot). Variations of this include the double Guyot (bilateral) and arched cane system.
  • Scott Henry System: This system developed by Scott Henry, a former aerospace engineer from Oregon where he planted grapes on his family homestead in the Umpqua valley near Roseburg, is set up like a VSP system. It can be either cane or spur pruned.  Four canes are retained, two each attached to an upper wire and a lower wire. The shoots on these are trained in opposite directions i.e. up from higher wire and downwards from lower wire using foliage wires. The system generates a vertically divided canopy.
  • Smart Dyson: This system, a modification of Scott Henry System is developed by Dr. Richard Smart, an international viticulturist and John Dyson, a well-known grape grower with vineyards in New York and California. Instead of four canes of the Scott Henry system, it involves using a single cordon to generate a vertically divided canopy.

The WSU Viticulture and Enology Program would like to extend a special thanks to: Jerry Harris, Ewing Irrigation; Kevin Judkins, Inland Desert Nursery, the team at Sagemoor Vineyards including; Derek Way, Vineyard Manager; Servando Rodriguez, Production Manager; Miguel de la Mora, Weinbau Production Manager; Ken Ashley; Wilmer Cervantez; Irvi Cervantez; Eddie Garcia; Victor Perez and Victor Perez Jr.; Tom Waliser, Waliser Vineyards and Beresan Winery; Jason Schlegel, Milbrandt Vineyards; Roger Gamache, Gamache Vintners; WSU Tri-Cities Facilities Staff including, Carrie Anderson, Assistant Director, Facilities & Operations; Sergio Avila, Grounds & Nursery Specialist; Andy Percifield, Build Maintenance Lead; Kyle Arsanto, Grounds Nursery Specialist. Thanks for your continued support of wine education in the Pacific Northwest.

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