Best Options & Innovations for Tow-able Vineyard Equipment

man towing vineyard

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

One of the most critical pieces of equipment in a vineyard is the tractor because it can tow many different types of equipment used for various purposes. Vineyard owners must evaluate specific towing considerations to ensure a good fit with the tractor and for safety and efficiency purposes. Meanwhile, the towable equipment you choose can significantly impact grape yields and vineyard health.

  To guide vineyard owners in the right direction, industry experts weigh in on choosing the best towable equipment and share new updates to this classic equipment that we can look forward to in the future.

Types of Equipment Towed in a Vineyard

  The concept of towing equipment in an agricultural setting is nothing new, yet many different vineyard tasks can be accomplished by the simple act of towing. A tow-behind grape harvester is used to pull grapes from the vines, while a tow-behind mulch spreader clears away branches and vines while helping to improve soil and control weeds. There are tow-behind tillers used to prepare and improve the soil while improving water penetration. Tow-behind sprayers help manage weeds, control pests and fight disease.

  Another type of tow-behind equipment common in the vineyard is a fertilizer spreader to supply nutrition to growing vines. Tow-behind mowers remove weeds that get in the way of vine growth, and tow-behind vine trimmers control growth on rough land areas and along fence lines and roadsides. Many vineyards also use trailers that are towed as carrying bins to haul away grapes or debris.

Benefits of Tow-Behind Equipment

  Aside from being tremendously versatile and durable, tow-behind equipment offers many benefits in a vineyard. These types of equipment are often less expensive than self-powered options and are less complicated to maintain and repair. Towable equipment is a good option in fields with steep slopes because it gives the operator more control and is designed to be narrower and maneuver through rows.

  The equipment can be pulled by different kinds of vehicles, not just tractors. For example, a tow-behind tiller or sprayer could be pulled behind an ATV, UTV or mower. Modern versions of these products have more power than you might expect and can help a vineyard save time and money due to the reduced strain on human labor.

  Of course, this is a diverse industry, and each type of towable equipment has its own unique set of benefits and applications. For example, A1 Mist Sprayers has a robust mist sprayer lineup that can be used both in residential and rural applications.

  “Besides our impressive compact footprint, the flexibility our lineup provides for the end user, regardless of available transportation, acreage size or vineyard, is truly unmatched,” Jon Kulzer, A1 Mist Sprayer division manager, told The Grapevine. “We have engine-driven options in a variety of sizes that can be easily transported through the vineyard on the back of an ATV, UTV or even commercial vehicle. If none of these options are available to you, then no problem. Our tractor, PTO-driven units can work great in a vineyard setting as well. Lucky for you, A1 Mist Sprayers are unique in their own ways and features universal parts that can be replaced or upgraded as time goes on.”

How to Choose Towable Equipment

  When it’s time to invest in new equipment or upgrade a current fleet, there are certain towing considerations to keep in mind. Vineyard owners need to evaluate the vehicle size, towing capacity, connection mechanism and how much horsepower is required. The terrain of the vineyard is a consideration because hills and steep slopes may require special equipment. Tow-behind equipment will need to fit well between the rows of grapevines, handle the occasional tight turning radius and avoid bumping into vines to cause damage. Based on the size of the vineyard and a business’ budget, renting towable equipment or buying used equipment rather than splurging on shiny, brand-new machines may make more sense.

  Paul J. Licata, the owner and president of BDi Machinery Sales, Inc., told The Grapevine Magazine that it is important to know the tractor specifications and technical information. These details include the tractor horsepower, PTO horsepower, gallons-per-minute flow rate, how many hydraulic remotes it has, tractor weight and overall tractor width, length and height.

  “The selection or options of tow-behind equipment can be dependent on the vineyard’s tractor capabilities, or specs,” said Licata. “As an example, the size of the sprayer being considered has tractor PTO HP requirements, as well you need to know 3-PT hitch lift capacity and towing capacity. For both sprayers and cultivation tools that are tow-behind, a single-row or single-sided piece has one set of specs, while a multi-row sprayer or cultivator has different requirements.”

  Licata said that frequently, bigger is better for equipment. However, he said that a vineyard must consider and balance the costs of running and operating a larger tractor with the fuel consumption necessary for larger models and two-sided equipment.

  “The operator of the tow-behind equipment is very important as well of course,” Licata added. “The same operator knows the tractor and equipment, but if you are switching or have different operators, a single-sided machine can be much easier for an operator who may not be doing the task every time.”

  Kulzer from A1 Mist Sprayers said that when it comes time to invest in a mist sprayer, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. The first question to ask yourself is what your current transportation setup is.

  “Depending on what type of transportation you have readily available, this can help us determine which unit would be best for your situation,” Kulzer said. “Overall unit size and full-tank weight of the mist sprayer is very important to take into consideration. Next, what is your idea spraying setup for vineyard rows? Will you require a volute that can mist two rows at once, or can you get by with a setup for one row at a time? Ultimately, answering this question will help us choose which type of volute would work most effectively for your operation. Lastly, what would be the desired distance you would need for optimal coverage? Since not all vineyards are created equal, some would require larger mist sprayers that have the capability to mist up to 160+ feet. Thinking about these considerations will help narrow down the most ideal A1 Mist Sprayer for you and your vineyard.”

Care and Maintenance of Towable Equipment

  Licata from BDi Machinery said the three components to trouble-free operation in the vineyard are the tractor, the operator and the piece of equipment. Mistakes can happen, and once learned from, making adjustments are key to correct and efficient operation. 

  Licata recommends studying and reading the owners’ manuals for new equipment so that you understand the setup, servicing, maintenance, fluid specs and overall setup of infield parameters for the potential adjustments to specific applications. He also recommends paying attention to the speed of the tractor and maintenance needs. Going either too slow or too fast can be problematic, so it’s crucial to operate the machine at the correct speed for its application. Meanwhile, all equipment requires maintenance on a regular basis. 

  “Bearings and fittings need to be lubed, and belts need to be checked and adjusted,” Licata said. “Cleaning and removal of foreign debris allows for equipment longevity and long-term, trouble-free operation.”

  Licata said that these days, most vineyards are servicing and maintaining their equipment onsite at the vineyard. Therefore, it is essential to have all the owner manuals and maintenance schedules from the manufacturer on hand.

  “Vineyards should have an in-season and pre-season maintenance program that is followed strictly,” Licata said. “Waiting until the piece of equipment needs to be used or breaks is not the time to find out that something is broken due to poor maintenance practices. Following the manufacturer’s specifications for fluids is extremely important, so you’ll need to know the exact oil or fluid viscosity, mineral or synthetic based, adjustments and torquing specs.”

  Kulzer from A1 Mist Sprayers said that the most common mistake his company sees vineyards make is end users not spraying with the wind or spraying on a day with high wind speed.

  “Not spraying with the wind greatly impacts your ability to provide optimal coverage on your vines, which can lead them vulnerable to many pests and diseases,” he said. “Additionally, spraying on a day that has high wind speed could lead to potential damage to crops and create possible health related issues for both animals and humans. It is very important to follow these two tips when utilizing a mist sprayer.”

Updates and Innovations with Vineyard Towing

  We also asked our industry experts about new technologies and innovations in the world of towable vineyard equipment. Licata from BDi Machinery pointed to the CIMA EPA 2.0 System

(Delivery Proportional to Advance) that works with the full range of new CIMA low-volume pneumatic sprayers. When decreasing the forward speed, the system automatically reduces the quantity delivered to improve spraying quantity accuracy. When increasing the forward speed, it increases the quantity delivered.

  “This system avoids product waste and assures treatment effectiveness, a great cost-saving and a reduction on the environmental impact,” Licata said. “Easy programming is guaranteed, as it is possible to save and manage up to 15 programs by entering the operation parameters.”

  Licata also mentioned the OLMI Air impulse de-leafers that can be implemented multiple times during the growing season and are the pinnacle of leaf-removal technology.

  “The machine is air-powered through a compressor to multi-diffusers that are rotating,” he explained. “The pneumatic machine shatters leaves to remove them from the canopy, as opposed to previous technologies that pull the leaves. Trials have shown traditional leaf pullers remove about 50 to 60 percent with control, while the air impulse de-leafer removes targeted leaves at 100 percent with control.”

  The Rinieri Finger is another piece of machinery that Licata said is innovative in this industry. This weeder cultivator allows farmers to eliminate or reduce spraying by using this machine for organic weed control. 

  “The new range of Rinieri finger weeders is for fast, mechanical weeding, up to six miles per hour, with the Bio-disc, which breaks the ground near the plants and then the Bio-Star with rubber spokes for inter-row processing.”

  When asked about innovative features regarding sprayers for vineyards, Kulzer from A1 Mist Sprayers said one of the most prominent statements he hears from the company’s customer base is that the flexibility to utilize these mist sprayers for multiple applications is incomparable.

  “We think end users are becoming more prudent and looking for more compact, user-friendly mist sprayers that do not require a lot of space or downtime,” Kulzer said. “Moreso, end users are always looking for flexibility to utilize their mist sprayers for multiple applications outside of vineyard spraying. Several A1 Mist Sprayers feature an exclusive backflush system that allows for the end user to utilize the mist sprayer for a variety of spraying applications that requires different types of chemicals. All units have been designed to offer versatility to adapt to your spraying needs.”

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