12 best practices for successful vine planting.

Each step of the planting process is of specific importance for the winegrower. To obtain healthy and long-lasting vine stock, it is vital to plan well ahead. Analyse the soil, choose the right material, water and maintain the plants: many areas require attention in order to prevent dieback.

Here we present an overview of the golden rules to obey to plant vines that will be both durable and profitable.

N°1 – Plan your planting operations 3 years in advance

Planting is not something you can do simply on a whim, and must follow detailed preparation and research. All the decisions taken during the process bear serious economic repercussions for the winegrower, and will have a direct impact on harvest quality. It is therefore appropriate to plan the project at least three years in advance, to have enough time to devote to each key stage.

Figure to remember: 19%*

The percentage of total surface area of root stock that has disappeared in the space of barely 10 years.


N° 2 – Allow the soil to recover

Allowing for a certain time lag between two planting operations is also the opportunity to allow the soil to recover before a new grapevine is planted. It is advisable to observe a period of grace of 18 to 24 months between grubbing-up and planting new stock. This rest period should be extended if the plot in question has been contaminated by viruses such as fanleaf (GFLV). In such a case it is recommended that a no-planting period of seven years be observed.

N° 3 – Analyse the soil

Each plot is unique. Knowledge of its precise characteristics is useful to guiding the winegrower in their decisions. The study should cover several aspects: the plot’s location, the soil horizons, the previous crop and the lessons learned from it. It should also include physical and chemical analyses, performed by taking two series of samples from the plot.

The indicators to be observed are:

  • Granulometry.
  • Total limestone.
  • Active limestone.
  • The chlorosis index (IPC in French).
  • The level of organic matter.
  • The biological activity of the soil.
  • Cation exchange capacity.

N°4 – Choose the right plant material according to the soil and your goals

The choice of plant material
plays a key role in the harvest for many decades to come. To begin with, the wine variety (-ies) will depend directly on the winegrowing characteristics of the plot and the type of wine to be produced. As such, there will be many criteria to take into consideration, from the supply of water to legal requirements, in addition to the orientation and gradient of the plot. Assessing market demand will also be a crucial point to guarantee future sales.

The winegrower will then be well advised to pay careful consideration to the rootstock. This could, for example, be particularly resistant to moisture, to active limestone, to droughts or to excessive salinity. Choosing rootstock wisely will help them to deal with the drawbacks of the soil while optimising production.

The SITEVI tip

The website Plantgrape is an online database offering access to the full list of officially certified clones and root stocks listed in France to help winegrowers make the right choices.

N°5 – Order the vines in advance

Anticipating vine orders
is essential to guarantee their availability at the desired moment. Indeed, the nursery needs 6 to 12 months to produce the grapevines. Allowances should also be made for the supply lead times for all the plant material. Orders should therefore be placed 18 months in advance for traditional plants and eight months in advance for plants in pots.

When taking delivery, winegrowers should check that the graft is solid and the roots are fresh.

N°6 – Adapt practices according to the type of vines ordered

Bare-root vines should generally be planted between February and the end of May, depending on the soil and the weather. Before planting, they should be soaked in water for 24 to 48 hours. Roots should be trimmed according to the planting tool, and the graft should remain 5 cm above ground level. Vine plants brought in pots should be planted between mid-May and July.

N° 7 - Prepare the soil

Another number to remember: a well-prepared soil offers 80% of the guarantee of successful planting. This task helps to improve the physical and chemical properties of the soil, with the purpose being to boost the root system of the young grapevines and their development. A prior study of the soil pit could be a wise move, to determine the operations to be conducted and the tools to use.

N° 8 - Don’t neglect basal dressing

Basal dressing
will make up for any of the soil’s shortfalls in minerals (phosphorus and potassium, for example) and organic matter. The vines will therefore be able to draw on precious resources to grow thanks to this reserve. Basal dressing will also help to rectify soil acidity where necessary. This operation should be carried out in view of the results of the soil analysis.

Soil acidity should be corrected six months after planting. Organic matter, meanwhile,should be added three months before, and buried 20 to 30 cm deep. If minerals are lacking, they can be also added in advance. Subsequently, upkeep on the planted vine can be planned.

Good to know

The pH of soil in winegrowing should ideally be above 5.8.

N° 9 - Rake the growing zone at least one month before planting

A month before planting, the winegrower could plan to rake over the ploughed land using a cultivator. The goal is to break up the earth in the places where the plants will take root. Next, weed removal using a rotary harrow will help to remove the last weeks. The choice of accessories and the number of passes to make should be adapted according to the soil’s needs. Care should be taken, however, to avoid compacting the soil too much.

N°10 – Water the grapevines well

the grapevines have now been planted following several years of preparation. Further steps lie ahead for the winegrower to guarantee the vines’ growth. These are still particularly fragile at this stage and should be watered sufficiently to help the roots develop and to grow. Each plant should receive 5 litres of water at time of planting, and additional watering should be planned, depending on the soil and the weather.

N°11 – Plan for mechanical weeding

The priority following planting is to enable the plants to take deep root while avoiding weeds. Mechanical weed control is therefore recommended to aerate the soil, help the root system become established and avoid water stress for plants. It helps to reduce the use of herbicides but also to limit run-off. However, this also requires frequent visits.

N°12 - Protect young vines from disease

Starting in the first year of plantation, a crop protection plan should be implemented. Young vines are exposed to many diseases and pests. This could lead to substantial damage and loss, not only on the current harvest but also for the years to come.

Mildew, powdery mildew, flavescence dorée, grey and black rot are all common diseases that could affect the grapevine. To fight mildew, a preventative approach should be adopted as soon as possible. It is also essential to monitor the farming weather, as mildew develops faster in the event of high rainfall. Meanwhile, combating flavescence dorée is strictly regulated. In the first year of planting, winegrowers must apply an insecticide treatment if the plot is located within the mandatory prevention perimeter.

Work, patience and perseverance are the watchwords to successfully plant a grapevine. And while vine dieback [further information in this French article: Quel est le rôle du Plan national Dépérissement du vignoble ? ] is a genuine threat, this roadmap, presented by the French Vine and Wine Institute (IFV) at SITEVI 2021, will help winegrowers adapt their practices and benefit from all the assets they need to optimise their productivity.