Allegrini 2018

“First Aid” for the vineyard: Simonit & Sirch the certified “Vine Surgery Team”

A task force against bait disease. Dendrosurgery: data collected over 10 years say that 90% of the vines are fully productive again

We all run to the dentist at the first symptoms of a toothache, and now you can call the “vineyard Emergency Room” at the first signs of bait disease in the vineyard. This is the idea that the Simonit & Sirch certified Vine Surgery Team developed, including emergency teams that go to the fields to save vineyards from bait disease, without eradicating vines. Simonit & Sirch is the world reference team for pruning techniques, and they take care of the vineyards of some of the most prestigious wineries in Italy and around the world, such as Chateau d'Yquem, Chateau Latour, Louis Roederer, Moet & Chandon and Terrazas de los Andes, among others. These teams are prepared and equipped specifically to be able to respond promptly to the request of wine companies. They use dendrosurgery, literally a surgical technique, which the Vine Master Pruners have developed over the last few years to counteract the damaging effects of bait disease. It is the most severe and widespread disease that affects vineyards all over the world, and especially those in Europe.
“Lightheartedly, we can compare our surgery to what a dentist does to treat cavities”, explained Marco Simonit. “We use small electric chainsaws to open the trunk and extract the part affected by bait disease. In this way, the plant is “detoxified” from the disease, and quickly regains its vigor, begins to bear fruit and becomes fully productive. There are no effective products for treating bait disease, even though there a lot of studies are being carried out in this regard. Actually, there are only two things to do, prevention through correct pruning, and surgery as soon as the plants begin to show the first symptoms”.
Simonit & Sirch also talked about the success of their dendrosurgery method that they have practiced in the most prestigious vineyards in Italy and around the world. The results achieved in 10 years of work and experimentation are surprising, because 90% of the plants treated have returned to full production. This result is extremely important for the quality of the wines as well as for the economic impact. Indeed, uprooting the diseased vines and replacing them with new cuttings creates a disparity in the quality of the grapes in the vineyard, which will obviously affect the quality and quantity of the wine. The number one priority for all winemakers is to have the longest-lived plants possible. It is especially important, though, for the top international Maisons, because it guarantees continual quality and recognition of their great wines. Dendrosurgery also provides companies considerable savings, as they can avoid the cost of replanting (including uprooting diseased vines, excavation of holes, planting rooted cuttings, breeding) and also avoid having to wait 6 years for the new plants to produce.
Simonit & Sirch carried out the first dendrosurgery tests in 2011 at Chateau Reynon in the Bordeaux area, and subsequently at Schiopetto in Friuli and Bellavista in Franciacorta. Over the 10 years of working and experimentation, 15.000 plants of 12 varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, Riesling, Malvasia Istriana, Sangiovese, Gruener Veltiner, Carmenere, Malbec) have been operated on in12 wine-growing regions: Collio, Franciacorta, Montalcino, Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Mendoza, Kamptal, Steiermark, Pfalz, Istria and Maipo in Chile. Analyzing the data collected – which the University and the INRA Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique de Bordeaux have also validated - it appears that tree surgery slows down progression of mortality symptoms in infected plants and even though the plants operated show a slightly lower vitality and fertility than healthy plants, the quality of the grapes is comparable. It is not the same for infected plants that have not been operated.
“To give you an example of its efficacy”, Simonit pointed out, “in 6 years (from 2011 to 2017) 90% of the plants of the Sauvignon Bianco cultivar operated in Friuli returned to production. Before 2011, 4.3% per hectare of the diseased plants were replaced, while after 2017, the percentage dropped to 0.07%”.
“It all started years ago, when we thought about experimenting with dendrosurgery, as Ravaz and Lafon explained, it had been practiced since ancient times. Poussard applied the method at the end of the 1800s and had very encouraging results; that is, 90-95% of the strains were restored”, he concluded, “thanks to Professor Denis Dubourdieu, former director of the ISVV Istitut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin of the University of Bordeaux, who died prematurely, we have put it into practice using modern tools. We were the first ever to do this, in Italy and also abroad. We are absolutely satisfied with these results, but we will not stop here, because our work is always in progress. For instance, we are now verifying what is the best time of year to intervene, how often we need to do so, how many plants one person can operate per day, how long the plants we operate remain asymptomatic, and other various aspects”.

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