University of Missouri Extension

WG3002, New July 2011

Midwest Vineyard Labor Calendar

Eli Bergmeier
Viticulture Research Specialist
Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology
R. Keith Striegler
Director and Viticulture Program Leader
Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology

Various tasks must be completed in a vineyard for it to become and remain productive, yield quality fruit, and deliver a financial return. As most vineyards in the Midwest are hand-farmed, an adequate supply of available labor is necessary to complete operations at appropriate times and with maximal efficiency. For example, if shoot thinning is performed too early (before the 4- to 6-inch growth stage), a second thinning pass may be needed to remove late-emerging shoots, but if performed too late (10-inch growth or more), shoots may have to be cut with shears, which greatly reduces efficiency. Therefore, to achieve the greatest possible efficiency, adequate labor is needed to thin all vineyard acres when shoots are between 4 and 10 inches long. Numerous other cultural operations in vineyards have similar narrow windows of opportunity.

This publication aims to help grape producers develop appropriate management plans and reasonable financial expectations by providing information on

Labor requirements are provided on a per-acre basis, unless otherwise specified, and assume manual execution of most tasks by laborers skilled in vineyard work. Producers using unskilled labor will need to budget for higher labor-training expenses and labor requirements due to lower productivity. Seasonal and climatic variability across the Midwest will require producers to adjust the timing and perhaps sequence of operations according to a vineyard’s location and observed weather conditions. Tasks included in this timeline assume conventional or sustainable management practices because of their prevalence in the Midwest region.

This publication is not intended to replace labor records for individual enterprises but to serve as a reference for those that do not yet possess them. Vineyard enterprises should monitor their labor use and costs for various tasks on an individual block basis to accurately determine their establishment and production costs.

Vineyard development timeline

The vineyard development timeline referenced in this publication assumes an extensive site preparation period, starting in late summer and about 18 months before spring planting. This schedule is appropriate for sites that require significant modification before planting due to limitations such as highly irregular topography, surface obstructions, unfavorable soil chemistry or structure, or poor internal drainage. Sites with difficult perennial weed populations would also likely benefit from this approach.

Site preparation needs can vary widely, and sites that require little modification may be well prepared for planting in as little as 6 to 8 months. Prospective growers are encouraged to seek expert guidance in preparing a site-development strategy.

This publication refers to preplant vineyards as establishment phase from the start of site development until the fall before planting and planting phase for the 6 to 8 months before spring planting. Nonbearing vineyards are those planted but not yet bearing. Vineyards attain bearing status in late winter of the first cropping year, typically as they enter their third or fourth leaf.

Cost estimate basis

The three studies referenced in this publication developed cost estimates based upon different assumptions.

  1. Capps et al. (1998) specified a VSP trellis (for low cordon training with vertical shoot positioning) with 7 feet between vines and 10 feet between rows.
  2. Domoto (2001) specified a two-wire trellis for high bilateral cordon training and spacing of 7 feet x 9 feet (vine x row).
  3. Noguera et al. (2005) specified a two-wire trellis for high bilateral cordon training of hybrid vines and 8 feet between both vines and rows.

Where appropriate, the figures reported herein are averages of those reported in these studies, with references provided in parentheses. This was done to approximate, as accurately as possible, the labor required by Midwestern vineyards that are grown with differing training methods and vine densities. This method did result in a loss of specificity, however, so readers are encouraged to examine the referenced studies for information most pertinent to their operations.

Labor demands for tasks not included in these studies are estimates provided by the current authors. Demand for tasks that vary by block size was estimated based upon 8-acre enterprises trained to single cultivars. Labor demands for some tasks, including irrigation system installation, nutrient application other than granular nitrogen to planted vineyards, and harvest, were not estimated due to expected high variability between enterprises and locations (harvest costs are estimated on a piece-rate basis).

January

Notes

  1. Capps et al. report soil sampling labor demand at 1.6 hours per acre; Domoto reports a demand of 0.4 hour per 2.5 acres.
  2. Assumes use of a tractor-mounted or -towed herbicide sprayer.
  3. Capps et al. specify machine-augured holes; Noguera et al. do not specify hand-planting method.
  4. Assumes use of a handgun sprayer.
  5. Assumes use of tractor-powered air-assisted sprayer.
  6. Domoto grow tube placement labor estimate includes installation of bamboo training stakes.
  7. Assumes use of a powered spot sprayer.
  8. Noguera et al. specify a seasonal allowance of 11 hours per acre for suckering and canopy management operations.
  9. Noguera et al. labor estimate is for Vitis vinifera.
  10. Capps et al. labor estimate is for VSP-trained vines.
  11. Domoto estimate includes tying shoots to stake.

(Dormancy)

All vineyards

Bearing vineyards

February

(Dormancy)

All vineyards

Bearing vineyards

March

(Dormancy)

All vineyards

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

April

(Bud swell and burst; shoot growth begins)

All vineyards

Preplant vineyards

Site preparation phase:

Planting phase:

Bearing and nonbearing vineyards

May

(Early shoot growth; start of bloom)

Preplant vineyards

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

June

(Fruit set; continued canopy development)

Preplant vineyards

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

July

(Canopy development nears completion; veraison in early cultivars)

Preplant vineyards

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

August

(Canopy development complete; veraison for late cultivars; harvest for early cultivars)

Preplant vineyards (about 18 months before planting)

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

September

(Harvest for midseason cultivars)

Preplant vineyards

Site preparation phase:

Planting phase

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

October

(Harvest for late cultivars; growing season nearing its end)

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

November–December

(Dormancy)

All vineyards

Nonbearing vineyards

Bearing vineyards

Estimated seasonal total labor demand per acre

Assumptions

Labor hours

For a more comprehensive tool for calculating vineyard labor demand and establishment expenses, download the interactive spreadsheet available from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/fruits/wine/winery_and_vineyard_feasibility_workbooks.cfm.

References

Acknowledgements

The authors sincerely appreciate the kind and valued assistance of Tim Burson, Mary Burson, Jackie Harris, Fred Dressel, Brandon Fahrmeier and Lynn Gay in reviewing this publication.

 

WG3002 Midwest Vineyard Labor Calendar | University of Missouri Extension

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