Participants were able to take part in a demonstration of rate shoot thinning.

Participants were able to take part in a demonstration of rate shoot thinning.

Coffee, Donuts and Variable Rate Shoot Thinning - All Parts of Efficient Vineyard Project

JAMESTOWN, NEW YORK (May 17, 2017) -- Cornell Cooperative Extension Chautauqua County’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is excited to announce that Dr. Terry Bates of the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP) at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory (CLEREL) was host to an “on-the-fly” variable rate demonstration at the Wednesday, May 10, 2017 LERGP Coffee Pot Meeting. The extension team holds Coffee Pot meetings every Wednesday during the growing season from early May through the end of July. These meetings are hosted by growers across the Lake Erie Grape Belt, on their farms and in their barns. The LERGP Extension team provides only the coffee and donuts, the agenda is usually set by grower questions. This provides an informal setting for exchange of information and ideas, as well as a means to apply current research results to the issues of the growing season.

The May 10th Coffee Pot meeting was different in that it was held at CLEREL, and was started with a demonstration of a portion of the research being conducted as part of the USDA/NIFA SCRI Efficient Vineyard project. Dr. Bates explained that vineyards can be scanned using NDVI technology (Normalized Difference Vegetative Index) which shows the amount of photosynthetic (green) matter in the vineyard at the time of scanning. During the early season, this accounts for the shoots that are just emerging from the canes and are approximately 2-3 inches in length. With this map in hand, the grower can go into the vineyard and validate the information in each of the zones (i.e. how many shoots are in a low vigor zone or a high vigor zone) by counting the number of shoots on the vines in each of the zones. The shoot numbers can be applied back to the NDVI map and a shoot count map can be created. With this map, and the right technology, a grower can input the data into a field computer in their tractor which will then control the hydraulics of the shoot thinner. The map provides the computer with vigor zones from low to high causing the shoot thinning head to speed up to remove a higher percentage of shoots in the high vigor zones, and where there are less, the shoot thinner will slow down and remove less shoots. The goal of this on the fly variable rate shoot thinning is to create a uniform vine size across the vineyard block optimizing production.

At this meeting, the 30 growers in attendance were shown how the shoot thinner responds to the maps without operator involvement. Rhiann Jakubowski, GIS technician with LERGP, created a “fake map” of the parking lot so the attendees would be able to see how the thinning heads sped up or slowed down according to the zones from the map. The tractor operator then drove through the vineyard providing growers a firsthand look at variable rate shoot thinning. For growers in the Lake Erie region of New York and Pennsylvania, if you are interested in taking the first step toward variable rate management, please contact a member of the LERGP extension team to set up an NDVI scan of your vineyard.

This is the second year that LERGP has been able to perform on the fly variable rate shoot thinning and we are excited to see the results as the season progresses. For more information about the Efficient Vineyard project, please visit our website at To learn more about the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program please The LERGP team has started producing weekly podcasts and the latest podcast has Dr. Bates explaining the whys and how’s of shoot thinning that can be found at

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is a cooperative effort between Cornell and Penn State Universities; the participating Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara and Cattaraugus Counties in New York and Erie County in Pennsylvania; and participating industry partners National Grape Cooperative (Welch’s), Constellation Brands and Walkers Fruit Basket. The LERGP extension team provides research-based educational programming for commercial grape growers throughout the year at venues across the Lake Erie grape belt. For more information on LERGP, call 716-792-2800 or visit our website at

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a community based educational organization, affiliated with Cornell University, Chautauqua County Government, the NYS SUNY system, and the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, call 716-664-9502 or visit our website at Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.

Last updated May 17, 2017