Installations for vineyards and orchards have undergone extensive changes as a result of agronomic requirements (use of modern and more productive cultivation techniques) and out of economic necessity (mass use of mechanised harvesting and protection from adverse weather conditions and insects).
However, these changes have certainly not been accompanied by detailed preliminary studies in order to properly define the materials and methods to be used for installations.
A ‘trial and error’ method was adopted at first, often involving improvisation and often making even serious mistakes that jeopardised not only the harvest but also the entire installation.
With regard to orchards, insufficient installations were created, that weren’t able to guarantee protection of the fruit against the elements, nor optimisation of running costs for the orchard itself. They also weren’t able to guarantee correct agronomic practices.
Wind, hail and snow are significant weather events that are not to be underestimated or considered of marginal importance. They also cannot be estimated empirically without any scientific basis.
Vineyards also witnessed significant changes resulting from the use of modern cultivation techniques and the simultaneous use of innovative materials (metal support posts), necessary to obtain efficient, mechanised installations that are easy to run; sometimes, however, the results did not live up to expectations, leading to installations being constructed that were not resistant enough to the stresses and strains of weather events.
At this point, the question spontaneously springs to mind: why does this happen?
The justifications that are normally provided are not completely convincing, explaining that the posts have nothing to do with it and that the weather event in question was extremely intense and violent.
However, someone may object to this saying: what does ‘extremely intense and violent‘ mean exactly?
It would no longer be useful to try to understand how resistant are the posts and to what extent can they resist a weather event?
Normally, the answers to these questions are even more articulated and imaginative, but without providing any useful information to really understand WHY!!
Our company has been present in this market for more than 50 years and, when proposing solutions to our customers, we’ve thoroughly investigated all the fundamental features of vineyard and orchard installations, with the aim of providing the right responses to that burning question, which so often remains unanswered.
– Why are installations set up in this way?
– Why are we using these materials?
– What are the limitations on the size of an installation?
– How do we correctly position the materials?
These are the questions that we ask ourselves and for which we want to have definite answers, not only to satisfy our customers but also to give them the peace of mind that they need to face such a significant investment (like the one needed to build a vineyard or orchard installation), not without any fear, but with the awareness that they have made the right decision with the right people.
Valente’s approach to installations is to combine theory and practice in order to achieve guaranteed results and, therefore, provide solutions that can satisfy the requirements of the specific situation at hand.
To do this, we turned to a group of engineers (with whom we still work today) to share notes on issues relating to vineyard and orchard structures, in order to provide the answers to the above questions.
We began by looking at the objectives that the structures were aiming for, in order to understand the expected results. To do this, we followed three steps:
1) Define the stresses and strains that the installations are subjected to, understand the geographical areas of development, understand the specific stresses and strains inherent to these areas.
2) Understand how structures work, and what methods are usually followed to build the installations, including the length of the rows, the width of the installation, the height of the structure above ground, the distance between anchor points, the depth that the posts are set into the ground and also the materials used.
3) Identify appropriate adjustments in order to allow the structures to be perfectly efficient and able to resist stresses and strains using the correct materials. Said materials should be used in the correct way and should be installed perfectly in order to obtain an efficient installation.
The answers that we obtained for each step were of great significance and provided unprecedented clarification on the limits to be imposed in order to give customers an efficient, effective and secure structure.
Here some details:
Considering that vineyard and orchard installations are subject to greater stress and strain during the period running from spring until mid-autumn, potential damage could be caused by wind and hail.
The load caused by hail that has been taken into consideration is equal to 0.06kN/m2 (6 kg/m2).
The external loads affecting the structure are those caused by wind pressure/depression on the vertical and/or sloping surfaces and tangential to the horizontal surfaces.
From the calculations made, considering all areas of Italy, it appears the maximum wind speed that the installation can be subjected to is 119 km / h.
At this point we must consider that Vineyard and orchard installations are tensile structures, where the support posts are held together by wires and cables which, placed under tension and maintained in this state by anchors to the ground, guarantee the necessary levels of safety and stability. Here, identifying the right static scheme for the appropriate checks becomes fundamental.
Starting from a square surface measuring 150 m down the side, where rows were placed 5.00 m away from each other, posts were positioned every 10.00 m and the maximum height of the installation was established at 5.00 m above ground level, we proceeded to the actual calculation to have the fundamental results that will tell us how big we can make our installations, what are the maximum distances between rows and posts that we can reach and what maximum height we can push.
Obviously, all these simulations require the use of very high quality material, with very precise and certified mechanical characteristics because only in this way can we be sure of the results we want to obtain.
The precious information obtained from the various analysis steps has been included in our installation manual, in order to always have the best information on how to size, build and manage a vineyard or orchard plant.
This work took years of data research and, despite providing clear and reliable answers, is continuously developing to keep pace with technological evolution in terms of new materials and related installation techniques.
This important accomplishment, and its continuous improvement, is dedicated to all of our farmer friends who, every day, risk their livelihood in one of the most hostile environments on earth: the field.
Our goal is to ensure that the money they invest pays off in the shortest possible time, providing them with a strong, reliable and easy to manage installation.