An alternative to chemical weeding : ground covering under the rows
Wine-growing today has adopted an overall approach to reduce plant-protectant products – most plots which at one time were sprayed with weed-killer have decreased to around 15% in 7 years!
One of the most-used strategies to accelerate this decrease is the implementation of a natural ground cover called “under the row”. The wine-grower lets grass grow under the young vine plants (contrary to a complete ground cover, only the plant is covered underneath and the inter-rows are not covered).
The benefits are numerous:
- Prevents sprouting of other harmful/aggressive plants for the vines, making weed control unnecessary,
- Limits tractors driving around during these high-maintenance periods of the vineyards,
- Absorbs excess water in the event of strong rainfalls.
For this to be successful, the choice of plants used and the width of the ground covering area are key factors to consider: the last studies carried out showed that yields on a non-covered plot could be less than 10% in the first year (yields nevertheless tend to balance out as of the second year).
Some types seem more suited to fight against “weeds” without even having to compete head-on with the vines. The hawkweed and red fescue are great examples. Remember that “natural” weed control is not currently wide-spread due to the difficulty of managing it (several plant-types with various growth speeds needing to be cut, difficulty of correctly measuring/foreseeing the competition with the vine, etc …)
If you are interested to knowing a bit more, I advise you to read this great article of viti-net
For more news on Rhône wines: www.vins-rhone.com