Respect sap flow: Pruning for optimal vine health & homogeneity

vineyard technology
pruning shear

Pruning is a critical activity for vineyards to achieve vine balance as winter approaches. Alessandro Zanutta from Simonit&Sirch made an excellent presentation at our 2015 Napa Vintage Report conference about a new pruning technique. He raised an excellent point about the impact of pruning on sap flow activity.  

Pitfalls of traditional techniques

Return cuts are common in the wine industry. As you make a large return cut into the wood, this produces a big wound on the plant. Inside the wound, desiccation cones can start to form. The larger and deeper the cut, the bigger and deeper the desiccation cones. Furthermore, large return cuts can also lead to fungi diseases and interruption of the vascular system of the vine.

For younger vines, crossed return cuts can be damaging. Without proper techniques and positioning, you may negatively interrupt the flow of sap and leave the wood feeble as a result. This would affect the long-term health of the vine. It’s critical, therefore, to leave just enough wood reserves on the vine to maintain vigor and productive capacity.

Figure: Desiccation cones and irregular sap flow from 3 crossed return cuts (source: Alessandro Zanutta’s presentation)

large cross return cuts producing irregular sap flow

Pruning for better vine homogeneity

Mr. Zanutta presents a new pruning technique to address the pitfalls of traditional techniques. The technique utilizes small cuts on top the branches, rather than cross cuts that leave more damage on the vine. Leaving more living wood on the vine provides sufficient space for sap flow to reach the spores to maintain vine vigor. The values of the new technique include better cane homogeneity, similar proportion of leaves, preservation of the natural flow of sap, and balance in bud breaking.

The contrast between the traditional method and the less damaging method is stark, as you can see below.

Figure: The impact of more respectful vine pruning (source: Alessandro Zanutta’s presentation)


The take-away: it’s key to take a holistic approach to vine pruning and to consider its potential impacts on sap flow. Fruition Sciences provides solutions to gauge your wood biomass activity as well as understand the sap flow. Click here to view the full talk and learn more about the Vintage Report conference.

The Vintage Report brings together scientists, winemakers and industry leaders from all over the world to produce a one-day seminar that brings together open minds within the industry to discuss the previous year’s harvest in light of the most recent scientific findings and newly available data. Our biggest impact is asking the question: how can we leverage what we learned this year to improve vineyard practices and wine quality? Check it out at

Brandon Burk

Hello! I’m Brandon. I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and lived there until I was 22. While attending college I worked part-time as a dog washer and eventually became a full-time dog groomer. Pet grooming is a job that is needed everywhere and it allowed me to take a chance and move to Napa. While in Napa I craved change and decided to try my hand in the wine industry; having no previous wine experience. What I did have, was applicable knowledge from taking classes and labs such as horticulture and biology, a strong attention to detail, a love of the outdoors and a hard-working Midwestern mentality. After proving myself as an intern, I became the Head Vineyard Technician for Fruition and I couldn’t be happier. The places I get to go, the people I meet and the sites I see always keep the job fresh and exciting. When I’m not working I enjoy watching the Chicago Blackhawks win, running, hiking, golfing and spending time with my dogs.

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2 thoughts on “Respect sap flow: Pruning for optimal vine health & homogeneity

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