GiESCO 2019 banner
IVES 9 IVES Conference Series 9 GiESCO 9 Soil preparation practices to eliminate soil restrictions to grapevine root distribution for the establishment of sustainable vineyards

Soil preparation practices to eliminate soil restrictions to grapevine root distribution for the establishment of sustainable vineyards


Context and purpose of study – Grapevine yield and wine quality are dependent on good quality vegetative growth and root development. Soils that restrict proper grapevine root development, together with the high cost of establishing a new vineyard, require effective soil preparation to sustain productive vineyards for 25 years. This study reviews soil preparation research conducted over the past 50 years and identifies best practices to remove soil physical and chemical impediments to create optimum conditions for root growth.

Material and methods – In a series of field trials in vineyards, different implements namely rippers, various types of delve ploughs, excavators, as well as different tillage depths and soil types were investigated. The effect of soil preparation was measured in terms of and root growth and above-ground grapevine performance, penetrometer resistance and the longevity of soil profile modification.

Results – A reduction in available soil volume decreases the grapevine root system and subsequently also shoot growth and yield. The first sign of soil compaction is uneven growth which may eventually progress to dead patches in a vineyard. Results showed that the soil must be loosened to a depth of at least 800 mm, but preferably to one meter. Adequate soil depth could compensate for lack of irrigation in the coastal region of the Western Cape. The correct choice of implement for soil preparation is determined by soil type. The South African wine and table grape industries have access to an array of implements that can deal effectively with diverse soil conditions. Effective soil preparation means that the soil is uniformly loosened to a depth of at least 800 mm, that poor subsoil is not brought to the surface and that the loose soil has a good structure i.e. no large clods which cannot be exploited by roots.Soil water content determines to a large extent the effectiveness of implement action. Soils that are too dry break up in large clods and require maximum draw power. Soils that are too wet when tilled, result in poor crumbling and wheel slip. Conditions for preparation are best when the soil surface is dry to ensure good traction for tractors while the subsoil is still moist. Deep tillage in two directions may be necessary when a uniformly loose medium is not achieved with working in one direction or better mixing is required. The application of soil ameliorants during soil preparation is essential. This practice provides the only opportunity to apply lime on acid soils, remedy low P contents in the subsoil and also incorporate gypsum in the subsoil for the reclamation of saline soils. Loose soil re-compact after soil preparation and such re-compaction is especially harmful in newly planted vineyards. Results on the longevity of soil preparation before re-compaction occurs, are presented.


Publication date: September 27, 2023

Issue: GiESCO 2019

Type: Poster



Department of Soil Science, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, 7602, Republic of South Africa

Contact the author


soil preparation, soil depth, ameliorants, re-compaction, root distribution, grapevine performance


GiESCO | GiESCO 2019 | IVES Conference Series


Related articles…

Key odorants responsible for the sensory spaces defining the different aroma potentials of Grenache and Tempranillo grapes

There are yet many gaps in our knowledge about the aroma potential of winemaking grapes and its measurement. Trying to bring some light into this question, a new general strategy based on the accelerated hydrolysis of reconstituted phenolic and aromatic fractions (PAFs) extracted from grapes has been developed

Non-linear unmixing as an innovative tool to detect vine diseases in UAVs, airborned and satellite images: preliminary results

Vine diseases have a strong impact on vineyards sustainability, which in turns leads to strong economic consequences. Among those diseases, Flavescence dorée spreads quickly and is incurable, which led in France to the setup of a mandatory pest control implying the systematic use of pesticides and the prospection and uprooting of every infected plants. Remote sensing could be a very powerful tool to optimize prospection as it allows to produce quickly accurate maps over large areas. Recent studies have shown that high spatial resolution (10cm/pixel) multispectral images acquired from UAVs allow to map Flavescence dorée in vineyards using leaves discolorations [e.g. Albetis et al., Remote Sensing, 2017].

Control of microbial development in wines elaborated by carbonic maceration

Carbonic Maceration (CM) winemaking is typically used in different European regions. But It is paradoxical that being a traditional processing system and widely used in many wineries, some of the phenomena that take place and the parameters that characterize them are barely known. In this vinification system the intact grape clusters are placed in a carbon dioxide (CO2) enriched medium, and they immediately change from a respiratory metabolism to an anaerobic fermentative metabolism called intracellular fermentation, which is carried out by grape enzymes. But some grapes located in the lower zone of the tank are crushed by the weight of the ones above and release must, which is fermented by yeasts.


The movement of Natural wines has clearly increased in the last few years, to reach a high demand from consumers nowadays. Switzerland has not been left out of this movement and has created a dedicated association in 2021. This association has the ambition to develop a specific tasting sheet for natural wines. The study of the tasting notes shows that the olfactory description of wines is recent but predominant today. But wine is a product makes to be drunk and not (just) to smell it. Based on these findings, a new 100-point tasting sheet has been developed. The main characteristics are 1) an evaluation in the mouth before the description of the olfaction, 2) to give 50% of the points on the judgment for the mouth characteristics, 3) to pejorate the visual aspects only if the wine is judged as “not drinkable” and 4) to express personal emotions.

Use of artificial intelligence for the prediction of microbial diseases of grapevine and optimisation of fungicide application

Plasmopara viticola, the causal agent of downy mildew (DM), and Uncinula necator, the causal agent of powdery mildew (PM), are two of the main phytopathogenic microorganisms causing major economic losses in the primary sector, especially in the wine sector, by wilting bunches and leaves with a consequent decrease in the photosynthetic rate of the plant and in the annual yield. Currently, the most widespread methods for planning spraying are based on the 3-10 rule, which states that the first application should take place when: (i) the air temperature is greater than 10°C; (ii) shoots are equal or greater than 10 cm; and (iii) a minimum of 10 mm rainfall within 24–48 hours has occurred, or at the beginning of the bud break with periodic applications according to the manufacturer’s instructions.