Leaf removal by hand is labour intensive and expensive so the alternative is to mechanise.

Various systems have evolved over the years with the early ones being rather rough and ready but the recent ones being refined, safe and able to cover a lot of ground in a day. 

Vitifruit Equipment have been selling and hiring them for over twenty years and have seen a growth in use across the country as more people try them and get used to them. 

There are two basic types, first the one which sucks the leaves into contra rotating rollers which pluck them off and second the type which jets fast moving air into the leaves and blast them off. Both types have their place with the plucking type being used all through the season right up to the day of harvest but the jet type being used more mid season before the berries get too soft, however that type is more capable of removing all the leaves particularly those in the densest centre of the trellis. 

Of the types on the market it has become more popular to follow the Provitis systems approach whereby the tool is just one of many which mount onto a common mast however the Stockmayer system remains popular and is equally proficient and a little more manoeuvrable. Optional equipment such as a turnover device and auto sensing are available.

Generally it’s advisable to trim before using these tools but if that’s not possible the plucking models can be fitted with blades to trim off any branches or thick vegetation which is in the way.

For more like this, sign up for the FREE Vineyard newsletter here and receive all the latest viticulture news, reviews and insight