Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
New method to protect grape rootstock available


February 9, 2010
By Ohio State University

Topics

February 8, 2010,
Wooster, OH – An alternative method for protecting rootstock while controlling
weeds and promoting environmental sustainability may be available to grape
producers, specifically those who grow the crop in cold climates.

February 8, 2010,
Wooster, OH – An alternative method for protecting rootstock while controlling
weeds and promoting environmental sustainability may be available to grape
producers, specifically those who grow the crop in cold climates.

Ohio State University
scientists with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center have
found that herbicide-treated mulch, popular in the green industry for its
myriad of environmental and production benefits, is proving successful in
vinifera grape production.

Advertisment

Vinifera grapes
produced in the United States have to be grafted onto an insect-resistant root
stock to grow and stay healthy. That graft union must be protected from the
cold weather and to do that growers usually cover the graft union with a layer
of soil in the fall,” said Doug Doohan, an OARDC weed ecologist. “However, over
time the organic matter of the soil degrades, the soil complicates weed control
and any vineyards situated along hillsides become severely eroded.”

Researchers replaced the
layer of soil with a layer of mulch (either wheat straw or shredded bark),
sprayed the mulch with an herbicide, and discovered a whole host of benefits
that the soil couldn’t provide.

The mulch did a better
job at protecting the grape vines from frigid temperatures and helped conserve
moisture for later use by the plants. The herbicide application enhanced weed
control and the mulch/herbicide combo reduced the amount of leaching and soil
runoff. In addition, researchers found that yields had improved, mostly likely
because of the increase in organic matter, and, curiously, the quality of the
juice improved as well.

“For grape growers who
want to demonstrate sustainability and produce a successful crop, this is a system
they can use,” said Doohan, who also holds an Ohio State University Extension
appointment. “This approach is useful anywhere freezing temperatures threaten
the life of the grape vine.”

The study –
Herbicide-Treated Mulch May Reduce Soil Erosion and Pesticide Off-Site Movement
in Vinifera Vineyards – was recently reported at the 2009 Ohio Grape and Wine
Conference
and at the 34th Annual Eastern Section Conference of the American
Society for Enology & Viticulture
. The abstract was published in the December
2009 issue of the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture.

Doohan said that the
study is a jumping off point for future research.

“One of the outstanding
questions from the study is the cost of implementing the alternative system,
which compared to the traditional method is much more expensive in basic cost
and inputs,” said Doohan. “But the indirect savings – from reduction of soil
erosion to the reduction of leaching to savings in herbicide applications –
needs to be calculated.”

Other researchers
involved in the study include OARDC viticulturist Imed Dami, OARDC soil
microbiologist Warren Dick, and OARDC research assistant Linjian Jiang.