The usual under-vine management practice in the Northeastern USA a 3-ft herbicide strip to reduce competition for the vines. Most growers spray at least three herbicide application per year, with application costs of approximately $220/acre/year. This open soil is susceptible to erosion as well as herbicide runoff/leaching. Through a series of experiments we have developed recommendations for replacing herbicides with under-vine cover crops. This project aims to engage all 200 winegrape growers in the Finger Lakes Grape Program through a comprehensive educational program so that more growers adopt this environmentally and economically sustainable practice.
50 New York State (NYS) winegrape growers replace herbicides with annual under-vine cover crops on a total of250 acres, reducing production costs by at least $150 per acre per year.
Through a series of six research experiments we have developed recommendations for replacing herbicides or cultivation with under-vine cover crops. This project will engage all 200 winegrape growers in the FLGP through a comprehensive educational program as well as other grape growers around the Northeast through social media. Educational approaches include viewing a professional video to learn about the use of under-vine cover crops in vineyards, presentations at cooperating vineyards so growers can personally evaluate the impact of the practice, one-on-one meetings with the project team, grower discussions to maximize peer learning, and final delivery of outcomes to industry via production of a final podcast. All growers interested in experimenting with under-vine cover crops will be personally assisted with cover crop seeding, establishment, management, and evaluation of the practice.
Educational approaches include viewing a video to learn about planting under-vine cover crops, presentations at cooperating vineyards so growers can evaluate the impact of the practice, one-on-one meetings with the project team, grower discussions to maximize peer learning, and final delivery of outcomes via a Cornell Cooperative Extension podcast.
200 grape growers view video and learn about under-vine cover crops, and the benefits of using them overherbicide/cultivation; 50 NYS grape growers respond via online form to express interest in trialing under-vinecover crops (December 2017).
The informational video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7IMzX8e4dI&feature=youtu.be now has >1,000 views (although we don’t know how many of those are NY grape producers). We advertised on May 2, May 9, and May 31 to recruit growers in the Finger Lakes Grape Program Vineyard Update: https://nygpadmin.cce.cornell.edu/pdf/newsletter_update/pdf438_pdf.pdf
35 grape growers work one-on-one with project team to develop plans to experiment with under-vine cover crops in their vineyards during 2018 season, seed at least one cover crop (June 2018)
Unfortunately the grower numbers did not get close to our target of 35 (actual number is 12 different growers). We had a good number initially interested but then getting people pegged down for choices was more difficult than I thought. It took more time than I had anticipated so we were able to stop by fewer vineyards nearby to try to attract growers to the project. However many growers experimented with more than one cover crop, and they asked for larger areas to be seeded than I had anticipate
Total seeded area was more than 9 acres. Cultivars included Gewurtztraminer, Pinot noir, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Concord, Niagara, Lemberger, Cabernet Franc. Cover crops seeded included buckwheat, fine fescue, oats, and chicory.
65 grape growers attend grower-led discussion at collaborating vineyard, personally evaluate use of under-vinecover crops (August 2018)
We had a field meeting at Boundary Breaks on Seneca Lake, with 35 growers attending. We viewed the oats and buckwheat that were seeded into the Riesling blocks there and discussed the benefits of under vine cover crops. Kees Stapel (vineyard manager) spoke about his experience working with them. Results were viewed as positive but it was so dry in the early part of the season that they didn’t provide full coverage. Many growers reached out to ask about seeding under vine cover crops in the following year.
25 growers agree to experiment with under-vine cover crops for the first time during 2019 season (August 2018)
We had ten additional growers agree to test under-vine cover crops in 2019 (in addition to the first 12, who have all indicated interest in continuing with this effort) . We are in the process of recruiting more now.
30 grape growers individually host project team at their vineyard to evaluate impacts of 2018 cover crops(December 2018)
We’ve been reaching out to the growers we’ve worked with to get their thoughts during this pruning season (impacts on vine size, etc.). This milestone is in progress.
20 grape growers work one-on-one with project team to develop plans to experiment with under-vine cover cropsin their vineyards during 2019 season, seed at least one cover crop (June 2019)
We have 10 growers who last year indicated at our field meeting that they’d like to participate this coming year. We are actively recruiting more growers as I recognize are participant numbers are not as high as we need!
50 grape growers who experimented with under-vine cover crops over the course of the project meet with project team to verify outcomes and share information (August 2019)
We are recruiting growers.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
We are in the process of our end-of-year interviews so cannot verify learning outcomes yet. Our method is to discuss one-on-one with the grower what their experiences were with under vine cover crops, what they were surprised by, and how the information they gained might guide their practices in the future.
Performance Target Outcomes
Adopt annual under vine cover crops in place of herbicides in mature vineyards
Reduced production costs of $150 per acre
No change verified yet.
No change verified yet.
No change verified yet.
At this point we are unable to verify any outcome data. Twelve different growers worked with us, trialing under vine cover crops on a total of approximately 9 acres. I hope that we haven’t had a miscommunication, but my intention was to work with the same growers this year (plus many additional growers to reach our target) so that they had a second year to observe and consider impacts. After only a single year of observation it’s less likely they would adopt the practice. I anticipate having a full data set for verification following the 2019 growing season.
Additional Project Outcomes
No additional outcomes to report.
I grossly underestimated the time involved in actually helping the growers seed the cover crops – from organizing, ordering the seed, getting the seeder to the location, working with the grower to get it hooked up to an ATV or tractor, etc. This extra time resulted in fewer project personnel to grower visits in the spring to attract growers to the project than I had hoped. I am not sure how we can address it this season but intend to work very diligently to attract growers to the project.