Friday dawned as a magical blue-skied winter’s day – perfect conditions for the third Felco-sponsored pruning competition between the Stellenbosch University (SU), Elsenburg and CPUT final-year viticulture students.
Each institute put forward their top three students to compete -cheered on by the Felco team and the rest of the students.
The event was hosted at Stellenbosch University, in the Welgevallen vineyards. Each student was given a row of unpruned vines, and had to perform spur pruning as well as prune Cazenave units where applicable, in the neatest possible fashion and according to theoretical principles.
While the judges determined the winners, Dr Albert Strever, senior lecturer in Viticulture (SU), introduced the students to “Dassie”, the prototype vineyard robot, currently under development by the Institute for Grape and Wine Sciences (IGWS) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Christophe Nicolet, chief executive officer of Felco Switzerland, welcomed all the guests and participants, providing them with some insights into this family-owned business.
“Training and education are of cardinal importance for Feldo all over the world, and we are proud to be associated with these three institutions,” said Christopher.
The company has been exporting to South Africa since 1946.
Livio Tognon from Simonit and Sirch, the Italian vineyard specialists, presented a talk on “Pruning, respecting the sap flow”, which challenged the audience’s more conventional approach to prun- ing.
This method has, however, gained momentum over the last three years in the South African wine industry.
Provincial MEC of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, joined the festivities, giving his take on pruning with an entertaining political slant.
Rico Basson from VINPRO followed with a motivational talk about innovation in the industry, and what it is going to take for this generation of future wine makers and viticulturists to stay ahead of the game.
Benley Visagie (CPUT) took first prize, Chanté du Preez (Elsenberg) was awarded second prize, and Naude Opperman – with his 1965 Felco Popular, from Stellenbosch University, claimed third prize.
● Anne Alessandri is the liaison officer for the internship programme at the Institute for Grape and Wine Sciences, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, SU.