Permanent cover cropping with reduced tillage increased resiliency of wine grape vineyards to climate change

Majority of California’s vineyards rely on supplemental irrigation to overcome abiotic stressors. In the context of climate change, increases in growing season temperatures and crop evapotranspiration pose a risk to adaptation of viticulture to climate change.  Vineyard cover crops may mitigate soil erosion and preserve water resources; but there is a lack of information on how they contribute to vineyard resiliency under tillage systems. The aim of this study was to identify the optimum combination of cover crop sand tillage without adversely affecting productivity while preserving plant water status. Two experiments in two contrasting climatic regions were conducted with two cover crops, including a permanent short stature grass (P. bulbosa hybrid), barley (Hordeum spp), and resident vegetation under till vs. no-till systems in a Ruby Cabernet (V. vinifera spp.) (Fresno) and a Cabernet Sauvingon (Napa) vineyard. Results indicated that permanent grass under no-till preserved plant available water until E-L stage 17. Consequently, net carbon assimilation of the permanent grass under no-till system was enhanced compared to those with barley and resident vegetation. On the other hand, the barley under no-till system reduced grapevine net carbon assimilation during berry ripening that led to lower content of nonstructural carbohydrates in shoots at dormancy. Components of yield and berry composition including flavonoid profile at either site were not adversely affected by factors studied. Switching to a permanent cover crop under a no-till system also provided a 9% and 3% benefit in cultural practices costs in Fresno and Napa, respectively. The results of this work provides fundamental information to growers in preserving resiliency of vineyard systems in hot and warm climate regions under context of climate change.

Authors: Maria Zumkeller, Nazareth Torres, Runze Yu, Alyssa DeVincentis and S. Kaan Kurtural

Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis, USA

Email: mzumkeller@ucdavis.edu

Keywords: cover crops, tillage, cultivation, climate change, soil health

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