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I'm on my second vineyard year and the grape vines have broken dormancy and leafed out over the past two weeks. However I have one variety that is behaving a bit differently than the others: along the trunk shoots have emerged only at the bottom, with a single shoot showing up half-way up the trunk. All my other vines had shoots from top to bottom (before shoot removal). I'm concerned that these vines may have suffered winter damage that has compromised the trunk health? The fact that there is one shoot mid-way up however confuses me. If the buds were dead, why would there be this one in the middle? Should I wait longer to see if any further shoots appear, or should I cut the vine down to the base and regrow the trunk?

The pics below show with a yellow line where along the trunk there is no shoot growth, with the one healthy shoot in the middle.

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  • There's no good reason to throw away 2/3 of the trunk that lived if the very top died...
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 16 at 18:53
  • @Ecnerwal, does the bottom section not having any shoots below that single medial one suggest the bottom half is mostly dead too? If I were to prune this above that medial shoot, keeping the bare lower-half, would nutrient transfer up the trunk be compromised in the future? Or is the fact that there is a live shoot above it mean it's useful trunk wood even if most of its buds are dead?
    – Paul W
    Commented May 16 at 19:04

1 Answer 1

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The first leafless section is likely still alive - otherwise I doubt that lone shoot could have grown. Everything above it looks kind of dead though; test the sections you're suspicious of by gently scratching them with a knife or a fingernail - if it's alive it'll be damp and green underneath while dead sections will be corky and brown. Let me know how that goes.

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  • Shallow scraping with a razor shows that just beneath the bark the trunk is green and damp all the way to the very top. Could it be that the trunk is good but the buds are dead for some reason? Or just dormant and not activated yet, but will with a little more time?
    – Paul W
    Commented May 17 at 13:08
  • Ok, break open one of the buds; if it's moist and you can see obviously living tissue, then it's good and the rest will burst in a few weeks - if it's flaky and brown inside it's dead and likely the rest will be too. Commented May 17 at 14:09
  • I cut into several of them both above and below the live shoot. They all look to me like the buds are dead - I saw no green until the bud was completely removed and I was seeing trunk cambium. I compared with some probably live buds on other vines and there's definitely a difference. So, if the trunk is green but the buds have died, what does that mean? And where should I prune, above the lone top live shoot, or near the ground just above where all the live, vigorous shoots are? Do those dead buds signal a compromised trunk, or is the trunk just fine?
    – Paul W
    Commented May 17 at 14:31
  • RIght, so the buds are dead - most likely from too heavy a chilling. It'll still grow, but will take a while to reach the point the others are at now. Commented May 17 at 14:45
  • So what is your recommendation for pruning?
    – Paul W
    Commented May 17 at 14:49

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