Europeans Have the Cool Vineyard Machines

Since we have just finished painstakingly pulled out all of our pruned canes this Italian contraption from Berti is going to go on my Santa list as my body says it’s a must have.

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Not European but cool anyway-

Pellenc is French. Not sure they are still making the Tournesol for weeding.

We use Pellenc’s Sunflower and ID David implements to great effect.

Never heard of or seen the Tournesol.

Nate: tournesol = sunflower when translated. Who sells you the ID David equipment in the USA?

You’d think with all those cool french vineyard machines they’d be using something other than candles in their fight against frost.

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All I can think of when I watch the OP video is that we need a remake of Fargo.

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Why not a flail mower followed by a disc? Mulch your cuttings back to the soil rather than removing the nutrients. In the video, it appears they mowed, then pruned, then contraption. We prune, then mow/flail so one step, less diesel.

Not sure of the sequence they use in the vineyard shown in the video. Also I don’t know the specific setup of the picker but it does have ripper-like teeth to feed canes into a section that has a flail mower that feeds the hopper. Not sure how low to the ground the flail mower is but it’s possible that they are mowing at the same time they are mulching the prunings. We are currently taking the prunings out of the vineyard to lower any potential disease pressure from one year into the next. Many in the east do as you suggest and mulch on the spot. We also do not disc our rows so as to improve our soil integrity through time. This is an ongoing strategy to improve our overall vine health by having healthy soils. Each year we try to tweak our practices to make them better towards improving the vineyard but we also try to find time savings in the steps we do. At the moment I’m spending a little effort to see if our prunings will make decent biochar so that we can blend with compost and put it back in the vineyard and improve soil health. I would put that one as a stretch goal at this point.

This year we did take the plunge and ordered a front mount Fischer Twister for weeding the undervine areas. I suspect that this will be much better than our rear mount Braun Luv-Perfect was. A couple years back I stopped using the Braun in our soils & weeds as I kept taking out vines and drip irrigation tubing. As with anything I suspect it’s not perfect but after time on the learning curve I think it will serve us well.

Well our vineyard weeder from northern Italy finally made it to our shores. Since we do not use herbicide I’m always on the look out for new technologies that will potentially work. The Fischer Twister seemed to foot the bill so I ordered one in the Fall of 2021. This unit is built like a tank and weighs as much as a tank. It requires two 12volt, one tractor hydraulics, and one 540rpm rear PTO connections. The PTO runs a self contained hydraulic system with cooling fan that supplies most of the functions to the weeder. Even though I have little seat time at this point it is a winner and does extremely well on most weeds. In addition it gets all the weeds around the vine trunks without harming the vines…when I get to newly replanted vines I turn off the weeder just before and restart just after. Over the next week I will add some before and after pictures with thoughts on what I’ve learned thus far.
Fischer Twister.jpg
Fischer rear hydraulic.jpg

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I’ll be interested to hear how this goes. It seems that most of the people I know have gone thru a number of different machines for undervine weed control before either finding something they like or throwing in the towel.

Looks cool, but potentially high maintenance…

Thus far I can tell that weeds with some leafiness are a breeze. Things like swallow wart, bind weed, tall clover, poison ivy, multiflora rose, Virginia creeper and similar plants go pretty easily. The straight grasses have a tendency to want to braid themselves into rope mostly on the ground or less frequently on the weeder shaft when they are tall. At the end of each row I’m checking for anything wrapped on the shaft. Nothing bad thus far but I’m not going through the tallest stuff yet. Also dense stiff mounded grasses are tough as they don’t cut easily. At this point I’m playing it conservative as I do not have spare line(8mm kevlar core) on hand from Italy. There are 3 flavors of line with orange(soft), green(medium), and white(hard). Orange and white came with the unit with no spares. The orange is clearly easy on the plant trunks and is no problem. I would like to try the green to see if that would be better on the dense mounding grass. The only other thing I would say is that like with all weeding machines it’s best to stay on top of weeds to get the best results. What I like about this is that you can still go after tall weeds if you need to. The other point that I need to get a handle on is the best spindle speed and travel speed vs weed height. For those large acreage vineyards this might not be the ticket based on travel speeds. For those vineyards alternating the roll hacke and rubber finger weeder with the Twister appears to be a solution people are using in Europe and Australia.

Not necessarily much more but the question is really what does one need to keep on hand besides extra trimmer line, grease, and fuses. Frequent inspection and greasing is key to this and most other pieces of vineyard equipment.

This, for me, is the crux of the matter with most mechanical, flaming or organic herbicide alternatives – they don’t really mesh well with letting a healthy undervine cover crop get established before you knock it down. Maybe the best of all worlds would be to grow a big stand of cover, let sheep take that down and then maintain the undervine strip with a machine like yours.

At the moment I’m happy with the diversity of plants undervine. Some are introduced/planned by us but at this point many are not. Many years back we did a perennial cover crop mix in the alleys that spread to the vine rows to join the seed bed there from many years of neglect. From the point you make it made me laugh as we chose to not use herbicides and see if we can deal with it and if we need to get rid of something we dig it out. The funny part is that we are going through the process of finalizing a Conservation Stewardship Program with the USDA and within their writeup they suggest we can use herbicide to get rid of some of the weeds. I know that the USDA cover crop specialist prefers to treat potential cover crop areas with herbicide first before you get started…

An update on cane removal from the vineyard. Since I can’t quite afford the Berti machine shown in the lead post I thought I would share my low cost method for removing vine cuttings from the vineyard. Late last year I purchased an expedition sled to remove material without totally knowing how much of a row’s worth cuttings I could get in one trip. These are normally pulled with a snowmobile but thought my little JD diesel garden tractor could do the job. With cane pruning and 800ft rows there is a lot of material in each row and it turns out that if you stack canes at an angle one can take out between 1 and 1.5 row’s worth in each go. Turns out this process of picking up canes and taking to compost pile goes pretty quickly with 2 people doing the job. The expedition sled is out of Alaska from Alaska Airframes and it is 10ft long and ~2.5ft wide. Works like a champ and tracks on snow or grass with the 2 full length runners underneath. It’s efficient enough that the Berti is just a memory at the moment.


Just a quick update on this machine. Finally this Spring I was able to use the Fischer Twister on in-row weeds that had crept up to 12-20 inches in height. As I mentioned previously the straight grasses/grains are the more difficult weeds. Last year I did not receive shipment of the weeder until the weeds were >24 inches and so it was a bit of a fight then. This year I found any grasses over ~14 inches in length would wrap around the spindle holding the trimmer line but that I could continue to the end of the row and then untangle. Anything under the 12-14 inches height would be cut with no issues. That allowed me to go alley to alley to weed the rows without stopping. The lower the weeds and the wider the vine spacing the faster one could go. Specifically it takes me ~3-4 hours to complete weed 36 rows of 800 ft in length. It doesn’t come out looking like a well groomed lawn but it is incredibly effective cut. In previous years I would manually weed whack the rows and that would take me an exhausting month and then I would have turn around and start over again until harvest. This is really the first year that I can join my spouse and shoot thin and position to keep on top of things. Absolutely enjoy the time savings the weeder gives us. That made the hefty price tag worth it. As far as upkeep at the moment it’s important to keep it well greased and just inspect after, and before, use. One other comment I will make is that on a very dry soil it can kick up a good dust storm. Best to weed after a fresh rain.