Grapevine Pruning Practices

Pruning Cuts       Replacing Cordons       Logistics       More Information

Ed Hellman, Texas AgriLife Extension, and Dick O’Brien, Owner of Elton Vineyards, Salem, Oregon

Adapted from Hellman and O’Brien, 2003

Pruning Cuts

When pruning, always use well-maintained, sharp tools. Pruning cuts should be made on canes or spurs at least one inch beyond the last retained bud. For cane pruning, it is common to make the cut directly through the next node beyond the last retained bud. Cutting through the extra node prevents it from producing a shoot, but the enlarged nodal region helps keep the tying material from slipping off the end of the cane. Ideally, cuts should be made at approximately 45º angles, preferably with the lower end of the cut angled away from the bud.

Replacement of Cordons

Over time, some older vine structures must be replaced, either because they have outgrown their area, or they have become injured, diseased, or are declining in vigor. Cordon replacement begins during the normal practice of suckering and shoot thinning in spring, with the retention of a well-positioned watersprout arising close to the top of the trunk. In the subsequent dormant season, cut the watersprout cane back to two buds and retain along with the fruiting cane or fruiting spur. The next year, cut off the entire old arm just beyond the watersprout cane (now two years old), then from that, select a good fruiting cane. Alternatively, if the watersprout is strong, it can be used immediately as a fruiting cane and the old arm removed. Select a watersprout arising from near the trunk and train it in the same manner that the original cordon was developed.

Pruning Logistics

It might be helpful to divide the various steps of pruning into distinct operations performed at different times. For example, cut off the old fruiting wood first. (Usually, retain a basal cane in case it may be needed for fruiting or renewal.) Next, remove suckers. Then pull out the pruning waste from the vineyard and dispose of it. The remaining canes are now easier to see, making the process of selecting the fruiting and renewal canes easier. Cut off extraneous canes and trim and tie the fruiting canes. A final pruning waste disposal completes the process.

It is helpful to throw the cut pruning material on the ground of every other row. Using alternate rows makes it possible to travel through the vineyard on the clear rows prior to disposal. You can remove pruned material from the vineyard (sometimes called brush pulling) or chop it up on-site, which returns organic matter to the soil. The volume of pruned material in mature vineyards makes brush pulling more difficult, so chopping may be a better option.


Hellman, E.W. and R. O’Brien. 2003. Pruning. In: E.W. Hellman (editor). Oregon Viticulture. Oregon State University Press. Corvallis, Oregon.

Coombe, B.G. and P.R. Dry. 1992. Viticulture Volume 2 Practices. Winetitles. Adelaide, Australia.

Wolf, T.K. and E.B. Poling, 1995. The Mid-Atlantic Winegrape Grower’s Guide. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

Recommended Resources

The Mid-Atlantic Winegrape Grower’s Guide, North Carolina State University

Pruning, Training, and Canopy Management, Iowa State University

Dormant Pruning 1 video, Virginia Tech

Dormant Pruning 2 video, Virginia Tech

Dormant Pruning 3 video, Virginia Tech

Structure of Spur and Cane Pruned Vines video, Oregon State University

Spur Pruning

Cane Pruning

Reviewed by Eric Stafne, Mississippi State University and William Shoemaker, University of Illinois