Can I prune old grape vines to get canes closer to base?

I inherited a bunch of grape vines last year. I know nothing about grapes, but have tried to learn about pruning from the internet.
Our plants have thick wood at the base; I don't know how old they are, but the trunks are about two inches across; maybe about five inches in diameter.
I tried pruning them yesterday, and discovered that the trucks go a LOOONNNNG way before sending out canes. Some of the trunks are bent and curled, often sending out canes as much as three feet from where the trunk comes out of the ground. All the info I have seen assumes a short trunk with canes coming out just a few inches above the ground, but on these plants you have to travel quite a bit to get to new growth. I suspect the plants were not trained well earlier, and the pruning took place farther and farther from the base each year.
My question is, is there any way to sort of train these back to getting growth closer to the base? It seems like there is a lot of wasted space now, as the trunks go several feet out of the ground before any growth. The trunks are heavy and lean on the wires. All websites I have looked at give instructions for pruning based on a plant that has been trained well to grow from the base. I can't seem to find any info on pruning grapes that have such long trunks.
Any information or web sites would be greatly appreciated. --Suzanne
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See if rec.crafts.winemaking can be of help.
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il Wed, 2 Mar 2005 10:09:26 -0500, "Ken Anderson" ha scritto:
...

Wouldn't they be too merry to see the buds? ;-)
I'm not sure you could prune it in one go, but if it is heavily pruned at the ends, that tends to reduce 'apical dominance' and encourage buds from lower down to break forth. But it may be too late for that kind of pruning up north anyway. Basically you leave 2 buds along last year's growth and prune the rest then in spring/summer when you've got a bunch of grapes prune about 2 0r 3 leaves past that. Oh and rub out the ones that insist on growing between leaves and stem. Those are the pesky ones because they're like triffids.
You could start by pruning any branch that is totally not what you want. My book talks about having 6 leaders and replacing one a year and letting a new one grow instead, so slowly but consistently you could prune it to what you want. I mean you may decide that one year without grapes is fine. But you wouldn't want to prune it so much it decided it was easier to die that send out new buds. I guess the rule of thumb is, the more severe the prune, the longer it takes to get back to normal. And some plants handle it better than others.
Anyway I found this cheery site that may give you the confidence to hack at ii: http://mtvernon.wsu.edu/frt_hort/grape_pruning_basics.htm
--
Cheers,
Loki [ Brevity is the soul of wit. W.Shakespeare ]
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Judging from the wild muscadines I have pruned back, they will come back from just about any stem left. Probably very bushy, when your real pruning and training come in.
John!
Suzanne D. wrote:

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I've heard that grapes bear only on the canes that are more than a year old, so even if the plant did survive heavy-handed pruning, you might not see it fruiting for a couple of years.
How about subjecting just just one trunk to your drastic pruning this year, and see how it goes? You can hit the others in later years if your trial seems successful. There is a group sci.agriculture where you might find people with grape-vine experience.
--
John Savage (my news address is not valid for email)


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Thanks to everyone for the info. I now know what topics to look into for more information, now that I am headed in a more specific direction. --S.

grapes,
diameter.
and
The
give
grow
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