The Land

Cover Crops

Cover crop in the vineyard
Many Lake County winegrape growers plant cover crops in their vineyards in the fall or early winter. Mixtures of beans, peas, vetch, mustard, radish, crimson clover, and other seeds are sown into the vineyard before rain is expected to help with germination. Cover crops enrich the soil’s organic matter, prevent soil erosion, provide habitat for beneficial insects, and add nitrogen.

 

Shannon Ridge Family of Wines Each fall, as part of our sustainable farming practice, crews spread hay in the vineyards to help reduce erosion of our steep slopes. The hay contains seeds of various plants that provide nitrogen and other nutrients for the soil. This year the hay contained predominately Crimson and Clover seed. Not only is the visual affect beautiful, it also happens to be wonderful feed for our sheep.

Cover crop in the vineyard

Dig Deeper:  Cover Crops
Cover crops have the potential to provide multiple benefits in a cropping system. They prevent erosion, improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. The species of cover crop selected along with its management determine the benefits and returns.[1] Cover crops are often used to replace the resident weed vegetation found on the vineyard floor. As with resident vegetation, keep cover crops away from young vines. Winter annual cover crops are often fall-seeded cereal crops such as oat, cereal rye, or barley.
Others, such as 'Blando' bromegrass, 'Zorro' fescue, or subterranean clovers, are commonly used in no-till vineyards. Cover crops are seeded into a prepared seedbed between vine rows in late September through mid-November. Most of these cover crops will reseed themselves if mowed in January or early February and, if allowed, will re-establish by April or May. Where late frosts are a hazard, mow cover crops just before budbreak. If reseeding is desired, mow after the cover crop matures to greatly increase the number of seeds for the next season. Periodically changing cover crop species reduces the potential for buildup of disease pathogens, weeds, rodents, and insect pests.[2]

[1] USDA National Resource Conservation Service

[2] UC IPM, Integrated Weed Management, http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r302700111.html