The key activity in establishing kiwifruit vines at this time of the season is graft care. The primary objective of graft care is the establishment of permanent leaders from two strong growing shoots which become the primary platform from where fruiting canes will originate for the whole productive life of the kiwifruit vine. The right leaders with good density of canes present a platform on which to build future cropping strategies. The two strongest and vigorous shoots are selected and trained up the bamboo stakes. A third shoot is selected as an insurance just in case. The 3 shoots are trained up the bamboo stakes and then onto the strings.
Our aim is to get the shoots up the string to achieve enough length and then lay them back onto leader wire by Christmas time. It is important to select the strongest shoots as possible as weak leaders will permanently compromise the subsequent performance of the new kiwifruit vine.
The growing shoots are quite delicate and are at risk to be damaged by wind. Kiwifruit is a climbing plant and rapid growth is encouraged when the growing tips are positioned upright to exploit positive phototropism of the sunlight. To ensure that the shoots are supported in an upright position to maximise faster growth and to prevent possible wind damage, frequent taping of the shoots is essential.
This minimises wind blow outs and damage that may result in PSA infection and dieback, which could lead to loss of plant or slowed/delayed growth. Care is also taken during taping to ensure that the tapes are not too tight or too close to the growing tip and that the shoots do not rub on structures.
While ensuring that the growing grafts are given best possible care and chance to maximise the growth to enable rapid establishment of the kiwifruit vine leaders, nutrition, water and vine health are key. So great focus is also put into regular water supply based on monitoring to mitigate any soil moisture deficits, sprays to protect disease and pests as well as fertiliser application for the management of nutrient deficit which are critical at this time of the year.