On my recent trip to Kiwiland I saw an interesting innovation that looks set to save growers lots of money. It’s called the Klima (www.klima.co.nz): a mechanical gizmo that strips prunings from vines. Now this might not sound a big deal, but it is.
Marlborough’s 19 570 hectares of vines are almost entirely cane pruned. This is a job that must be done by hand. During pruning, out of the 20 or so shoots that have attached themselves to the foliage wires, four are typically retained, perhaps with one for insurance purposes should there be breakage when the canes are tied down. The rest of the shoots, along with the previous year’s canes, have to be removed from the trellising, which is actually quite a difficult, time-consuming job, because their tendrils have locked onto the wires.
The Klima is a device that can be attached to the back of a tractor or mechanical harvester. After the pruners have made their initial cuts (the physically easy, but skilled part of pruning), the Klima goes down the rows, lifts the fruiting wires (these have to be attached using special Klima clips) and pulls off all the unwanted growth, mulching it on the spot. This saves a lot of valuable time, because skilled pruners are hard to come by, and you don’t want to be paying them to be doing the hard, boring, unskilled bit of pruning. They are glad not to be doing it also.
Cane pruning is important for quality in Marlborough, and this device – first sold in the last growing season, 2010 – promises to save growers a significant amount of money at a time when they are under serious pressure.