Under-vine management effects on grapevine production, soil properties and plant communities in South Australia
Under-vine (UV) management has traditionally consisted of synthetic herbicide use to limit competition between weeds and grapevines. With growing global interest towards non-synthetic chemical use, this study aimed to capture the effects of alternative UV management at two commercial Shiraz vineyards in South Australia, where the sole management variables were UV management since 2016. In adjacent treatment blocks, cultivation (CU) was compared to spontaneous vegetation (SV) in McLaren Vale (MV), and herbicide was compared to SV in Eden Valley (EV). Soil water infiltration rates were slower and grapevine stem water potential was lower in CU compared to SV in MV, with the latter having a plant community dominated by soursob (Oxalis pes-caprae) during winter; while in EV, there was little separation between the treatments. Yields were affected at both sites, with SV being higher in MV and HE being higher in EV. In MV, the only effect on grape must was a lower 13C:12C isotope ratio in CU, indicating greater grapevine water stress. In the grape must at EV, SV had higher total soluble solids, total phenolics, anthocyanins, and yeast available nitrogen; and lower pH and titratable acidity. Pruning weights were not affected by the treatments in MV, while they were higher in HE at EV. Assessments revealed that the differing soil types at the two sites were likely the main determinants of the opposing production outcomes associated with UV management. In the silty loam soil of MV, the higher yields in SV were likely due to more plant-available water, as a potential result of the continuous soil bio-pores formed by winter UV vegetation. Conversely, in the loamy sand soils of EV with a lower cation exchange capacity, the lower yields and pruning weights in SV suggest the UV vegetation competed significantly with the grapevines for available water and nutrients.