Alternative Method To Protect Grapes From Cold

For grape growers in cold climates, an alternative method for protecting rootstock while controlling weeds and promoting sustainable environmental practices may be available.


Ohio State University scientists with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center have found that herbicide-treated mulch is proving successful in vinifera grape production.

“Vinifera grapes produced in the United States have to be grafted onto an insect-resistant rootstock 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,” says OARDC weed ecologist Doug Doohan. “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 (wheat straw or shredded bark), sprayed the mulch with an herbicide, and discovered a host of benefits the soil couldn’t provide. The mulch better protected vines from cold temperatures and helped conserve moisture. The mulch/herbicide combination reduced the amount of leaching and runoff. Plus, yields improved, likely due to increased organic matter, and juice quality improved, too.

“For grape growers who want to demonstrate sustainability and produce a successful crop, this is a system they can use,” says Doohan. “This approach is useful anywhere freezing temperatures threaten the life of the grape vine.”

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