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Trellis Systems for Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit vines are not self-supporting: their size, vigor, longevity, and heavy crop load mean they need a strong, permanent support structure.

Two main types of support structures or trellises are used in commercial kiwifruit production: the T-bar and the pergola. A pergola provides a single plane of canopy about 6 feet above the ground. The T-bar trellis system consists of posts in rows with a cross arm at 6 feet high.

T-bars are less expensive to construct, less labor intensive, better suited to bee pollination, and they reduce the risk of botrytis infection. However, pergola systems tend to produce more yield per acre and the fruit are less susceptible to wind damage. Also, once the full canopy is established in a pergola, the shade reduces weed growth.

T-bar

A typical T-bar trellis consists of posts with a 5- to 6-foot (depending on row width) long cross arm extending across the post (Figure 1-A). The kiwivine fruiting canes are tied to wires on top of the cross arm.

Figure 1-A. Standard T-bar Trellis

standard t-bar trellis

Use pressure-treated 4-6 inch diameter posts that are 8-9 feet long spaced at 15-20 feet down the row. Square posts are easier to work with. Drive posts 2 to 3 feet into the ground. Use end posts that are at least 6 inches in diameter, and drive them at an angle with the top of the post leaning 1foot from perpendicular away from the row. Anchor the end posts well.

The top of the cross arm is 6 feet above the ground. Cross arms usually are a 2 x 6 inch board bolted into a cut notch on the post. You can brace cross arms back to the post for added strength.

Run a wire down the row from the top middle and each side of the crossarms (Figure 1-A). Two additional wires can be added, one between the center and each end wire. Use galvanized, high-tensile, 12-gauge wire for the vine supports. Good wire tighteners are needed to keep a strong tension on the wires to support the vines and crop.

A common modification of the T-bar is the winged T-bar, in which an additional wing and wire are added to each side of the T-bar cross arm (Figure 1-B). Tying down a cane from the center wire onto the two wires pulls it into a more natural curve.

Figure 1-B. Winged T-bar Trellis

winged t-bar trellis

Pergola

A pergola trellis is designed to support a solid canopy of foliage and fruit (Figure 2). Wires not only extend down the row, but also are used as “cross arms” (more commonly than using wood) running perpendicular to the vine rows. The wires are placed 1 to 3 feet apart.

Figure 2. Pergola Trellis System

pergola trellis

Bernadine C. Strik, Extension Berry Crops Specialist, Oregon State University.


This fact sheet is adapted from Oregon State University Extension Publication EC1464, Growing Kiwifruit, which can be purchased from the Department of Extension & Experiment Station Communications. How to Order