Abstract Ming-Yi ChouSteve LerchDave WeimannJustine Vanden Heuvel

Under-Vine Cover Crops Mitigate Excessive Vine Vigor and Improve Soil Health in a Mature Cool Climate Vineyard

Ming-Yi Chou, Steve Lerch, Dave Weimann, and Justine Vanden Heuvel* 
*Cornell University, 236 Tower Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850 (jev32@cornell.edu)

In the northeastern United States, most vineyards have vegetation between rows while maintaining a weed-free strip directly beneath vines. Combined with the cool and wet climate of the region, the practice of reducing weed competition promotes excessive vine vigor, which often leads to increased management costs and poor grape quality. A three-year study investigating the impact of annual under-vine cover crops was conducted in a mature Cabernet franc vineyard located in Ovid, NY. Five under-vine ground covers including chicory, tillage radish, fescue, alfalfa, and native vegetation were established in early May to compare with an herbicide strip maintained with glyphosate. Predawn water potential was consistently reduced in plots maintained with tillage radish; however, vine pruning weight was reduced only in the relatively wet year of 2015. Primary shoot growth, lateral shoot growth, and pruning weight were reduced in chicory plots. Soil aggregate stability, organic matter content, and microbial respiration rate were enhanced by under-vine cover crops compared to glyphosate. The results indicated that chicory was an effective under-vine cover crop to mitigate mature grapevine. Fescue, alfalfa, and native vegetation could be considered potential substitutes for glyphosate spray to improve soil health with little direct effect on vines. 

Funding Support: Toward Sustainability Foundation