Winning with Thinning  

Serendipity can occasionally play a leading role in research, bringing lucky – and unforeseen – benefits that may even outperform the initial objectives. For example, take New Zealand Winegrowers’ research trials into mechanical thinning for yield management.

Rows of vines at Ballochdale Vineyard Estate
Ballochdale Vineyards
Research initially explored whether adjusting machine harvesters to shake grapevines shortly after fruit set could reduce the costs of thinning unwanted crop in a season where yield was predicted to surpass demand.

Perhaps even better, however, mechanical thinning (or shaking) helped to control botrytis – the most important fungal disease affecting grapes, which often strikes near harvest.

With chemical control of botrytis estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars each year, the industry welcomes sustainable alternatives.

Giving vines a good shake is not only effective at reducing botrytis, it also helps the industry reduce pesticide use.

This three-year project was co-funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund.
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