An Illustrated Guide to Field Grafting Grapevines
Michael J. Coe1, Dai Crisp2, and Edward Hellman1
Field grafting, also known as top-working, is an old technique for changing the fruiting variety in a vineyard without the expense of replanting and lost cropping years. The field grafting technique involves cutting off the top of an established grapevine and inserting into the trunk two (usually) 2-bud canes of the variety selected for fruit production. The end result of a successful graft is a two-variety grapevine; the original vine continues as the root system and lower trunk, while the new variety becomes the upper trunk and the fruiting portion of the vine.
Conversion of a vineyard to a different variety usually can be accomplished in one season. The quick resumption of fruit production is a major advantage of the technique, enabling the vineyard manager to respond to shifting market demands or correct a mistake in the initial selection of the fruiting variety. Field grafting, however, is only appropriate for very specific circumstances.
Vineyards that are candidates for field grafting have all of the following characteristics:
In some circumstances, self-rooted Vitis vinifera vines, which are susceptible to phylloxera, are field grafted to a new fruiting variety. The strategy is to get enough years of profitable crops with the new variety to more than pay for the grafting costs before phylloxera infests and destroys the vineyard. Such a strategy is a high risk gamble in regions growing Vitis vinifera with phylloxera present, and is not recommended in Oregon.
Carefully evaluate your vineyard to determine if it is a suitable candidate for field grafting. If you conclude that it is suitable, plan ahead to give yourself plenty of time for all of the necessary preparations. The grafting process itself is not as simple as it appears, and requires considerable practice to develop the skills. You may want to consider hiring an experienced grafting crew. This guide presents the field grafting technique from the perspective of using a professional crew to make the grafts. The first (Pre-Grafting Preparation) and third (Post-Grafting Care) stages of the grafting process are conducted by the vineyard manager and resident crew.
The grafting procedure is described in three stages. Stage 1, Pre-Grafting Preparation, focuses on collection and storage of scion (fruiting variety) wood. The Grafting Process (Stage 2) contains step-by-step descriptions and photo illustrations of a professional grafting crew performing the cuts, inserting the scion, and taping and waxing the grafts. Stage 3, Post-Grafting Care, emphasizes the critical practices necessary for successful graft healing and subsequent healthy growth of the scion.
Special thanks to Dai Crisp of Temperance Hill Vineyards for his photographs of a grafting team working in the Willamette Valley. All photos are ©Copyright 1999 Dai Crisp, and are not intended for reproduction. Photos may be used by permission for educational purposes only on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the Webmaster for permissions. The photographs show a professional grafting crew from California under the direction of José Olguin.