Vineyards should be established with high-quality plant material from a reputable nursery. Although grapevines are easy to propagate by rooting cuttings, this practice is not recommended unless a known source of certified cutting wood is available. The source wood should be certified to be "true-to-type", that is, it is truly the variety and clone it is said to be. The cutting wood source should also be certified to be free of damaging viruses, other pathogens, and pests. Avoid the temptation of getting free cuttings from your neighbor's vineyard, even if it is considered to be productive and has a reputation for high-quality fruit. Viruses or other disease problems may be present without obvious symptoms. Propagating from such a source is likely to perptuate and multiply the problems, and could result in establishment of an entire new vineyard with disease-infected plants.
High quality plants are available from many nurseries that specilize in winegrapes. Investigate the plant certification requirements in the nursery's home state to learn the specifications of the certication. Be aware that plant certification is not required and many nurseries sell uncertified plants. Many states have plant importation or quarantine programs to prevent new disease and pest problems from being introduced to their region. Texas does not currently have such a program or importation restrictions, so caution is strongly advised to import only plant material certified by the nursury's home state.
Importation and Quarantine Programs
A federal importation and quarantine program prohibits the importation of all grapevine material from outside the U.S. except under permit from the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). Post-entry quarantine conditions require a specific protocol for disease testing and elimination prior to release from quarantine. This includes extensive virus indexing and treatment of infected plants. Again, this program is designed to prevent the introduction of injurious diseases and pests into American vineyards. Varieties or clones not currently available in the U.S. can be imported by going through one of the three grapevine importation programs granted permits by the USDA-APHIS. The programs are the Foundation Plant Services (FPS) of the University of California at Davis, the Plant Importation Program at Southwest Missouri State University, and the USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Geneva, New York. Canada also has a grapevine importation program and plant materials can be brought into the U.S. via the Canadian program.
When comparing the cost of different plant materials, keep in mind that grapevines are considered to have an economic lifespan of about 30 years, so amortization of the purchase price becomes insignificant compared to other development costs and annual production costs. Prices may vary by $2 to $3 per vine or more, but lower-cost plant materials may not be the best value. Lower grade plants (often graded as number 2 or number 3) are priced lower to reflect their slower development and smaller size. Smaller vines will establish more slowly in the vineyard and are more susceptible to stresses. Vineyard establishment is most successful and rapid when the highest quality plants are used.
Types of plant materials
* Rooted Cuttings are dormant, bare-rooted vines produced by rooting a cutting (a cane section about 12-16 in. long) and growing it in the field for one season. These are less expensive than grafted vines, but because they are "self-rooted" (or "own-rooted") they offer none of the special qualities that can be obtained from rootstocks such as pest resistance, soil adaptation, or vigor restriction.
* Dormant bench grafts are bare-rooted vines that were bench-grafted using dormant cuttings, rooted, then grown in the field for one season.
* Dormant potted vines are usually bench-grafted using dormant rootstock and scion (fruiting variety) cuttings, and grown in containers (plastic pots or paper sleeves) for a season rather than in the field.
* Green bench grafts are similar to dormant potted vines except that they are shipped out in the same year that they are grafted, and they are actively growing. These plants have usually been somewhat acclimated to outdoor environmental conditions and are ready for delivery by late Spring (end of May).
* Green grafted vines are produced by a few nurseries. These are potted vines that are grafted using actively growing rootstock and scionwood. Green grafted vines must be handled with care during transport, delivery and pre-planting because the new grafts can be quite fragile.
Ordering Plants from Nurseries
Nursery orders should be placed well in advance of the desired planting date to ensure availablility of the desired varieties, clones and rootstocks. Grafted vines should be ordered at least 12 to 18 months prior to planting to obtain the rootstock and scion combinations planned upon.
Receiving, Handling and Care of Nursery Plants
Always inspect the nursery plants upon arrival to make sure you have received your correct order and that the plants appear healthy. Contact the nursery immediately if there is any problem with your order. It is best to plant the vines right away, but dormant vines can be held in cold storage prior to planting. Planting in early spring is preferred so that the vines can benefit from mild temperatures and favorable soil moisture while they are becoming established. Green growing plants are not available until later in the Spring. Weather in Texas may already be hot by this time so more care is required of these plants to acclimatize them and avoid heat and water stress.
See our Suppliers page for links to grape nurseries.
Choose Planting, Grafting, And Budding Stock Wisely
University of California Cooperative Extension, Tulare County
FPS Grape Program
Foundation Plant Services, University of California, Davis
National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Fruit and Nut Crops, USDA-ARS, Davis, California
Importation and Certification Programs
FPS National Grapevine Importation Program
University of California, Davis
Missouri Grape Importation and Certification Program
Southwest Missouri State University
Plant Genetic Resources Unit
USDA-ARS, Geneva, New York