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Vineyard cover crops save expense, environment

Undervine cover crop in vineyard.

Undervine cover crop in vineyard.

Cornell Chronicle [2017-07-18]:

Cornell researchers have advice for vineyard managers in cool and humid climates like the Northeast: cover up.

Maintaining bare soil beneath vines has long been accepted management practice to stifle competition from other vegetation, preserving water and nutrients to optimize grape growth. Exposing soil beneath trellises has been achieved by using extensive herbicide treatments, a practice that is expensive and potentially damaging to the surrounding vineyard ecosystem and locations downstream due to runoff.

Excessive vine growth can result as a function of the lack of competition for water and nutrients, requiring costly canopy management practices in the vineyard to maintain fruit quality.

Planting cover crops under grapevines instead can remediate these problems, according to researchers at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. A series of studies led by Justine Vanden Heuvel, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, provides vineyard managers with an environmentally sustainable alternative to herbicide treatments in cool and humid climates while tamping down the cost associated with unnecessary herbicide use.

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