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Grape leaves and vine shoots


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Common names 

Grape, common grapevine, European grape, grapevine [English]; raisin, vigne [French]; uva, vid, parra [Spanish]; uva, videira [Portuguese]; druiwe [Afrikaans]; Grožđe [Croatian]; druil, wijnstok [Dutch]; ubas [Filipino]; weintraube, weinrebe, rebe, echter weinstock [German]; szőlő, szőlőfélék [Hungarian]; anggur, buah anggur [Indonesian]; uva, vite comune, vite euroasiatica [Italian]; anggur [Malaysian]; winogrono, Winorośl [Polish]; zabibu, mizabibu [Swahili]; Üzüm [Turkish]; nho, cây nho, chi nho [Vietnamese]; الكرمة ;عنب [Arabic]; আঙ্গুর [Bengali]; Грозде [Bulgarian]; 葡萄, 葡萄属 [Chinese]; Σταφύλι [Greek]; દ્રાક્ષ [Gujarati]; ענב ,גפן היין [Hebrew]; अंगूर [Hindi]; ブドウ, ブドウ属[Japanese]; ದ್ರಾಕ್ಷಿ [Kannada]; 포도, 포도속 [Korean]; മുന്തിരിങ്ങ [Malalayam]; द्राक्ष [Marathi]; अङ्गूर [Nepali]; انگور [Persian]; ਅੰਗੂਰ [Punjabi]; Виногра́д [Russian]; Грожђе [Serbian]; திராட்சைப்பழம் [Tamil]; ద్రాక్ష [Telugu]

Products: grape leaves, grape vines, grape canes, grapes shoots, vine shoots, grape prunings [English]; feuilles de vignes, sarments, rameaux de vigne, résidus de taille de la vigne [French]; hojas de vid, sarmientos de vid [Spanish]; foglie di vite, sarmenti di vite [Italian]


Vitis sylvestris C. C. Gmel.


The grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) is a vine cultivated worldwide for its edible berries (grapes) that are eaten fresh or pressed to make wine or grape juice. An important by-product of the grape crop are the leaves and shoots that are pruned once a year for crop management. These crop residues form a continuum of decreasing feeding value, ranging from fresh green leaves to dry woody shoots (canes). Grape leaves and vine shoots have been used traditionally to feed livestock in vineyards, particularly in Mediterranean countries. 


The grapevine is a vigorous and climbing woody vine that can reach a height of 15-20 m in the wild. In cultivated vines development is dramatically reduced through yearly pruning of shoots and leaves. Grape leaves are simple circular or circular ovate in outline, 5-25 cm broad, with long petioles. They can be entire or lobed (3 to 5 lobes) and coarsely toothed. The inflorescence bears small, pentamerous, fragrant, yellow-green flowers. The fruits are ellipsoid or globose berries, 6-25 mm long, of variable colours (from green, yellow to dark blue-purple) depending on the variety. Fruits (grapes) are juicy, sweet or sour. They contain 3-4 seeds (Ketsa et al., 1991Duke, 1983).

In viticulture, the shoot is the vegetative stem of the current year that bears the leaves, tendrils, and fruit. The cane is the vine shoot from the period it matures (turns brown and woody) until the end of the second year of growth (Jackson, 2009).


In vineyards, grape leaves and shoots are pruned after the grapes are harvested. These residues are generally disposed of by mulching into the vineyard or by burning on-site (Letaief, 2016). In the Mediterranean Basin, leaves and shoots are traditionally browsed by sheep and goats (Magnier, 1991). In Turkey, grape leaves are an important source of forage for ruminants during the critical period when quality and quantity of pasture is limited (Kamalak, 2005). Ensiled grape crop residues have been recommended as fodder since the end of the 19th century (Pau, 1940). Generally, grape leaves and shoots are fibrous products that can only be eaten by ruminants, equids and rabbits. Grape leaves are also used for food in many countries from the Mediterranean area, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Grape leaves stuffed with rice are delicacies known as "yaprak dolma" in Turkey, "dolmeh barg mo" in Iran, and "warak enab" in Egypt and Lebanon (Bekhit et al., 2016). Grape leaves and shoots have been reported as a potential source of natural antioxidants and as a food supplement (Cetin et al., 2011).


The grapevine is native from a region stretching from North-East Afghanistan to the southern borders of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. It was domesticated there around 4000 BCE and later spread to the Mediterranean Basin, Western Europe, India, China and Japan. The grapevine was introduced into the Americas by the Spaniards. It is now cultivated worldwide. In some cases, it hybridized with native Vitis species, resulting in cultivars adapted to local conditions. The grapevine is grown in both hemispheres, predominantly within 20 and 50°N and within 20 and 40°S. It can grow in tropical areas at altitudes between 300 and 2000 m. However, growth and fruit production are best below 1200 m. The grapevine requires a long, sunny, and warm season for the grapes to ripen, and a relatively severe winter that promotes plant dormancy. It withstands winter frost down to -20°C but light frosts of -3 to -5°C kill regrowth during spring, which reduces the yield of fruit. Summer temperatures of 25-30°C are optimal for shoot and berry growth. Hot and dry summers are best suited for fruit production because the risk of disease is reduced. The grapevine grows on most soils, light or heavy, deep or shallow, fertile or not, but responds to better soils with higher yields. Soil pH should be between 5 and 8, although values slightly below 7 are considered best. Light soils promote early ripening and a high sugar content. Soil texture is more important than soil fertility, and deep and well-drained soils are preferred as they favour extensive root development. The grapevine is tolerant of drought stress and will survive and grow in semi-arid areas where other crops fail. It is a full sunlight species, but it is necessary that its leaves protect the fruits from sun scorch. It should be sheltered or planted where strong winds do not occur (Ecocrop, 2016Ketsa et al., 1991).


The grape is one of the world's most important fruit crops in area, production and value. In 2012, grapes were cultivated on more than 7 million ha and produced 69 million t of fruits, with an average yield of 9.6 t/ha. 40 million t of grapes were used for the production of wine (about 90%) and juice (around 10%, fresh or concentrated), 24 million t for fresh fruit, and 5 million t for dried grapes (raisins) (OIV, 2016; Castellucci et al., 2013). The most important producers were China (9.6 million t), the USA (6.6 million t), Italy (5.8 million t), France (5.3 million t), Spain (5.2 million t), Turkey (4.2 million t), Chile (3.2 million t), Argentina (2.8 million t) and Iran (2.1 million t). The EU represents 75% of grape production and 57% of wine production. The main wine producers are Italy, France, Spain (where most of grape production is used for wine) and the USA. China is mostly a producer of fresh fruits (FAO, 2016).

The amounts of crop residues produced during pruning vary from 0.56 to 2.01 kg/vine depending on the trellis system and year (Reynolds et al., 1995 cited by Ye ZhiJing et al., 2016). The estimated weight of prunings (based on 5000 plants/ha x 7 million ha) thus ranges between 20 and 70 million t in 2012 (FAO, 2016). In Spain, it was estimated that vineyard crop residues are the main by-product of viticulture (more than 3 million t/year or 2.9 t/ha) (Molina-Alcaide et al., 2008).


Harvest and ensiling

French authors from the mid-20th century recommended cutting of the shoots before they shed leaves in order to maintain their nutritional value. The shoots were chopped, crushed and finely ground to make them more edible to livestock. The shoots were then ensiled in well-pressed layers in airtight silos and covered by straw and dirt. The silage can be used after 6 or 7 weeks (Pau, 1940).

Forage management 

Plant density

The grape is mostly propagated by cuttings or grafting onto rootstocks that have been selected for their resistance to drought, salinity or pests. Some rootstocks are also adapted to light or heavy soils. Cuttings should be taken from healthy, productive vines during vineyard pruning (Coombe et al., 2000). A very wide range of plant spacing is employed in viticulture as spacing depends on the training system as well as on vine vigour (Ketsa et al., 1991). Vine densities are higher in Europe (4000-5000 vines/ha) and lower in California and Australia (1100-1600 vines/ha) (Jackson, 2009). Even lower densities have been reported from Thailand (800 vines/ha), Indonesia and the Philippines (1000 vines/ha) (Ketsa et al., 1991).

Training and pruning

Training and pruning are very important operations in viticulture. Training is necessary to form the permanent framework of the vine and to ensure a minimal distance between roots and shoots. Pruning helps to maintain the form and to regulate fruiting (Ketsa et al., 1991). The vine needs trellis to grow correctly. Once the shoots are attached to the trellis, pruning is done in order to favour a well-balanced development of shoots and to limit the risk of rot, which occurs when there is too much leafy material. Inflorescence thinning is a way to correct the balance between growth and fruiting and to enhance fruit quality, as too many inflorescences are detrimental to sugar content (Ketsa et al., 1991). The major waste generated in winter and summer pruning are canes and leaves, respectively (Cetin et al., 2011).

Environmental impact 

Large amounts of crop residues are produced every year in vineyards. Their disposal is of environmental concern in the main grape-growing areas (Nogales et al., 2012). Most pruning residues are burned but this practice is generally restricted by environmental regulations because of its polluting emissions and negative consequences on air quality. Mulching pruning residues into the soil contributes to maintaining organic matter content. However, this practice may be dangerous in areas infected by diseases as Phomopsis viticola and Botrytis cinerea (Letaief, 2016). As grape leaves and shoots are widely underused as animal feed, this use could help to reduce their environmental impact (Molina-Alcaide et al., 2008).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Grape leaves and vine shoots are relatively poor in protein and rich in fibre. Grape leaves have a better protein content (7-14% of DM) than vine shoots (3-7% of DM), and a lower fibre content (ADF 18-39% vs. 25-57% of DM). Vine shoots are particularly rich in lignin (10-25% of DM). The protein content of vine shoots declines rapidly after the grape harvest: shoots collected at harvest had twice the protein content of those collected 30 days after harvest (6.2 vs. 3.0% of DM) (Kok et al., 2007). Storage affects the fibre content. In fresh vine shoots or those stored outside for up to 8 months, crude fibre increased from about 38-39% for the first 3 months to 42-45% of DM for the remaining period. Lignin increased gradually from about 10 to 20% of DM or more during the last 3 months (Tartari et al., 1979a).

Potential constraints 

Pesticide residues

The grapevine requires many pesticide treatments. For instance, no less than 37 pesticides were approved for grapevine treatment in the UK in 2014 (Agrii, 2014). Two of them, Boscalid (a fungicide) and Fipronil (an insecticide) have been reported to be of concern for animal feeding. Leaves and shoots spread with these products should not be grazed by or fed to animals (MacLachlan, 2010).

Copper toxicity

The use of copper-based fungicides, such as the Bordeaux mixture, may cause copper toxicosis in sheep, which are sensitive to copper. There have been reported deaths of sheep kept in vineyards treated with copper sulphate (Reis et al., 2015). Feeding grape-based fodder to sheep is, therefore, not recommended unless it has been washed (Magnier, 1991). In Italy, subclinical symptoms of copper toxicity were also reported in heifers fed vine shoots. However, the symptoms disappeared after the addition of ammonium molybdate and sodium sulphate to the ration (Tartari et al., 1979b).

Condensed tannins

Grapes leaves and shoots contain high and variable amounts of condensed tannins that may impair digestibility. Condensed tannins bind to plant proteins and cell wall carbohydrates thereby decreasing protein and fibre digestibility (Waghorn, 2008). However, tannins may have beneficial effects such as increasing by-pass protein in ruminants and decreasing gas production, thus reducing gas emissions (Makkar, 2003). Tannins that have been reported to reduce palatability in some forages do not appear to have a negative effect on the intake of grape leaves by sheep (Romero et al., 2000). Grape leaves have been reported to contain 2-10% of DM as condensed tannins (Gurbuz, 2007; Kamalak, 2005; Romero et al., 2000).


Traditionally in Mediterranean vineyards vine leaves and shoots have been grazed by sheep and goats after the harvest. They also provide feed when pasture is scarce or of poor quality (Magnier, 1991; Kamalak, 2005). However, they generally have a poor nutritive value, roughly similar to hay for the leaves and to straw for the shoots, and should, therefore, be fed to livestock with low nutritional needs (Magnier, 1991). As a general rule, they should not be fed alone but supplemented with sources of energy and protein (Pinto, 1990). In spite of their widespread use, information about the use of grape leaves and shoots is limited.

Palatability and intake

The palatability of grape leaves and vine shoots is variable and is probably positively correlated to the amount of green matter they contain. Fresh vine leaves appear to be very palatable: the spontaneous grazing of vine leaves by sheep used for vineyard weeding is such a problem that aversion training methods (based on associating nausea with leaf consumption) have been developed to prevent this behaviour (Fusté et al., 2014Burritt et al., 2013). Voluntary DM intake of female sheep offered grape leaves was also relatively high (1 kg/day), and the tannin content did not appear to be a problem (Romero et al., 2000). Conversely, some authors report that vine shoots are of low palatability and that salt should be added to increase consumption (Magnier, 1991). DM intake of vine shoots in sheep was found to be low, in the 28-29 g/kg W0.75 range for 35-55 kg sheep, below the minimum requirements and less than half that of fresh leaves (Vonghia et al., 1983). Ensiled vine shoots mixed with bran, molasses and middlings have been reported as highly palatable for all classes of livestock (Pau, 1940).

Digestibility and degradability

The digestibility of fresh grape leaves is generally medium to good, though information about it is scarce. In Turkey, in vitro DM digestibility of leaves ranged from 60 to 75% depending on grape variety, fibre and tannin contents (Kamalak, 2005). In Spain, in vivo OM digestibility in sheep was 47%, well below that of oat-vetch hay (61%) (Romero et al., 2000). The OM digestibility of vine shoots is generally low though highly variable. A Tunisian trial reported a very low value of 15%, while a Spanish trial reported much higher values: 44-53% (Rouaissi, 1986; Vonghia et al., 1983). A DM digestibility value of 40% was reported for ensiled vine shoots (Rebolé et al., 1988). OM degradability of vine shoots was slightly higher in buffaloes (25%) than in cattle (23%) (Settineri et al., 1995). Nitrogen digestibility of leaves and vine shoots are sometimes negative and, therefore, unreliable. Nitrogen degradability values reported for leaves and vine shoots are in the 45-55% range (Gurbuz, 2007; Molina-Alcaide et al., 2008).

Several Italian trials have tried to increase the feeding value of vine shoots by treating them with urea (Pinto et al., 1985; Marsico et al., 1985) or NaOH (Pinto et al., 1983), but neither method was satisfactory because of cost and limited efficiency.

Beef cattle

In Italy, dried and ground vine shoots fed to fattening calves at up to 30% of the diet gave satisfactory feed intake, growth and carcass characteristics (Bosticco et al., 1969). A trial with Friesian calves showed that feeding diets containing vine shoots collected one month after pruning resulted in a relative improvement in production, while dry vine shoots collected 5-12 months after pruning were more lignified and less digestible (Tartari et al., 1979a; Tartari et al., 1979b).


In Romania, wool growth and body weight of ewes during pregnancy and lactation, and condition and growth of their lambs, were about the same with 1.5 kg ensiled vine crop residues as with feed based on maize silage (Timariu et al., 1965). A series of Italian trials have assessed the value of vine shoots for sheep. The general conclusion was that vine shoots had limited palatability and digestibility and should preferably be used fresh and chopped in diets balanced for energy and protein, at a maximum of 33% of the diet (Pinto et al., 1983; Vonghia et al., 1983; Pinto et al., 1985; Marsico et al., 1985; Vonghia et al., 1985; Pinto, 1990).

Horses and donkeys 

In France, ensiled vine shoots have been used to feed horses. The daily diet per horse consisted in 15 kg of vines, 5 kg of bran with molasses and 1 kg of middling. The mixture was highly palatable (Pau, 1940). 

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 34.6 4.5 27.9 43.9 11  
Crude protein % DM 10.4 1.7 6.8 14.3 17  
NDF % DM 34.0 4.7 27.1 46.3 16  
ADF % DM 25.2 5.3 17.9 39.4 16  
Ether extract % DM 6.4   6.2 6.5 2  
Ash % DM 12.7 1.7 10.0 17.3 16  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.0         *
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 35.5       1  
Tannins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 52.7 24.4 24.0 105.8 15  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DM digestibility, pepsin % 68.2 4.7 59.8 75.3 10  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 47.2       1  
DM digestibility, ruminants % 42.2       1  
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 42.9         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.7         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 6.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 17.5   -25.8 60.8 2  
a (N) % 31.8 3.3 28.5 36.3 4  
b (N) % 38.2 2.0 35.3 39.7 4  
c (N) h-1 0.049 0.008 0.043 0.060 4  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 53 5 49 60 4 *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 49 5 45 56 4 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Gurbuz, 2007; Kamalak, 2005; Mollaei et al., 2015; Piccioni, 1965; Romero et al., 2000

Last updated on 23/10/2016 22:38:28

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 56.3 4.6 50.6 61.0 6  
Crude protein % DM 4.6 1.0 3.0 6.7 17  
Crude fibre % DM 39.4 6.2 28.1 51.8 16  
NDF % DM 48.1 18.8 32.1 74.1 13  
ADF % DM 36.0 13.7 24.6 56.9 13  
Lignin % DM 17.1 4.7 10.2 24.9 6  
Ether extract % DM 1.7 1.9 0.5 6.2 8  
Ash % DM 5.5 2.9 2.6 11.5 10  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.5         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 7.0 4.4 3.9 15.6 12  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.5 1.0 0.8 3.3 5  
Potassium g/kg DM 3.1 1.9 2.1 7.6 10  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.8   0.8 0.8 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.7 0.5 1.3 2.3 4  
Manganese mg/kg DM 32       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 37 9 26 43 3  
Copper mg/kg DM 10 6 5 16 3  
Iron mg/kg DM 65 47 36 148 10  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 41.8   27.0 56.5 2  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DM digestibility, pepsin % 36.4   30.0 42.7 2  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 37.5 19.7 15.5 53.3 3  
DM digestibility, ruminants % 39.3 13.3 20.3 51.3 4  
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 34.0         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 6.3         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 5.1         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % -1.7 21.0 -24.2 17.4 3  
a (N) % 43.0       1  
b (N) % 24.0       1  
c (N) h-1 0.017       1  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 50         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 48         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Alibes et al., 1990; CIRAD, 1991; Kok et al., 2007; Marsico et al., 1985; Molina-Alcaide et al., 2008; Piccioni, 1965; Pinto, 1990; Rebolé et al., 1986; Rouaissi, 1986; Vonghia et al., 1983; Vonghia et al., 1983

Last updated on 23/10/2016 18:32:24

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Thiollet H., Tran G., 2017. Grape leaves and vine shoots. Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/512 Last updated on May 10, 2017, 17:17

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant)