The low-input viticultural training system ‘Semi-minimal pruned hedge’ (SMPH) is progressively being more widely applied in the Central European grapegrowing regions. The present study examined the influence of (i) the training system (SMPH versus the vertical shoot position (VSP) system), (ii) the timing of shoot topping in SMPH, and (iii) the effects of mechanical thinning in SMPH on the bunch rot epidemic, grape maturity, and yield. Six-year field trials on Pinot blanc in Luxembourg demonstrated that yield levels in non-thinned SMPH treatments were 74% higher, and total soluble solids (TSS) at harvest 2.2 brix lower than in VSP. Non-thinned SMPH delayed the bunch rot epidemic and the maturity progress by 18 and 11 days compared to VSP, respectively. Different shoot-topping timings in SMPH did not affect the tested parameters. Mechanical thinning regimes reduced the yield by 28% (moderate thinning) and 53% (severe thinning) compared to non-thinned SMPH and increased TSS by 0.8 and 1.3 brix, respectively. Delayed bunch rot epidemic and maturity progress give rise to the opportunity for a longer maturity period in cooler conditions, making this system of particular interest in future, warmer climatic conditions. Providing that yield levels are managed properly, SMPH might represent an interesting climate change adaptation strategy.
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