The purpose of this project is to answer key questions surrounding undervine cover crops, so they can be used with greater confidence.
This project will build on the work of project UA 1303 which investigated the growth of cover crops below the vine which are both beneficial to the soil and the vine while competing with or suppressing the growth of weeds. This project found that annual pasture legume and grass cover crops generated yields and financial gross margins equivalent to or greater than the herbicide controls.
The project will monitor soil moisture and nutrients, characterise soil microbiomes (NextGen sequencing), assess plant pathogenic nematodes, and undertake conventional measures of vine performance on samples collected from a new field trial and the existing under-vine cover crop field trials from project UA 1303. A new under vine cover crop site will be established which includes biofumigant, and reference cover crop plant species previously identified in project UA 1303. Small lot wines will be made on a subset of the most promising treatments (one vintage, site/treatments to be determined based on project data).
The project will quantify the impacts of undervine cover crops, including biofumigant cover crops (e.g. for nematode suppression), on wider soil microbial communities and the ecosystem services (e.g. nutrient cycling) they provide, and important plant pathogenic nematodes.
The benefits of under- vine cover crops to vineyard management, grape and wine quality will be extended to the wine community so that grapegrowers can adopt the practices without penalty.