One of the most common questions fired our way is how to cut down on labour costs related to netting application and removal. This is a tough questions because not everyone has the same equipment, netting, or vineyard topography, all of which can have a substantial effect on labour requirements. Generally I have two recommendations. Use a drape net, or leave side netting out year round.
Drapeover netting requires far less labour in its application, and once you become experienced at application, goes on quite quickly. Draping six acres of vineyard a day with 3 people and a single tractor is a very reasonable target.
Side netting can be removed annually, but one way to save time is to just unclip the top attachment and gather the net around the bottom wire of your trellis. Fasten it together into a sort of netting ‘rope’ with ties or clips. This means you will just need to untie it and refasten it to the top wire the next year. A great way to save time, and the nets are plenty tough enough to handle being left out over the winter.
Of course not every trellis system is able to support this technique, many people would have their irrigation disrupted by netting being wrapped around their drip lines, or would find the net in the way. For these people, it is far more efficient to use a powered side net applicator. While expensive ($2200-$2700), without this tool a 1 or 2 day job can stretch on for weeks, costing thousands in wages.
Nothing saves more time than using the correct tools for the job. I have had many clients use jerry-rigged applicators on undersized tractors or quads, and while you might save on capital costs, it won’t save you any time or money in the long run. We have free designs for our applicators available, email me and I will be happy to provide drawings and explanations.