Chemical-Free Vineyards

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,813.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Villa Milagro Vineyards
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Steve and Audrey Gambino
Villa Milagro Vineyards


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Pest Management: cultural control, mulches - general
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Project overview:

    Fungus and weeds in vineyards can cause low crop yield and reduce vine vigor and longevity.  This project evaluates the effectiveness, efficacy and cost savings of two technologies to control fungus and weeds without synthetic chemical: Ozonated Water for fungal control and under-vine mulch alternatives in combination with OMRI certified herbicides for weed control. Both fungal and weed control represent significant expense to East-coast vineyards.

    Ozonated water:

    The test program will utilize an automated mist system in the canopy supplied by an irrigation system to deliver a steady supply of ozonated water to the test vines. Ozone is a well-established sanitizer used by virtually every major food processor, brewery and winery in the country.  Ozone gas is a very reactive compound (O3) and destroys every microbial cell with which it comes in contact.  While its successful use inside manufacturing facilities is well documented, it has not been used large-scale on crops. Villa Milagro Vineyards experimented with an ozone generator on their spray tank back in 2010.  The missing links were concentration (of ozone on the pathogens), timing and duration of contact.  A sketch of the mist system is found in section "Other Relevant Research Information".

    OMRI certified sprays and mulch:

    There are several OMRI certified herbicides that are effective.  They are however, cost prohibitive if used at levels needed to produce the same weed control as conventional herbicides.  This project will compare alternative under-vine mulches in conjunction with two OMRI herbicides to determine effective application rates of each for weed control and comparative cost.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objective is to determine if it is possible, practical and economically viable to eliminate synthetic chemicals used for fungal and weed control in commercial vineyards of the Eastern US.

    We intend to design and test a mist spray system within the vines' canopy that can regularly and thoroughly provide ozone to eliminate fungal disease.  We will be able to use our existing drip irrigation system, with appropriate modifications to deliver the ozonated water mist. This project seeks to determine the practicality of the delivery system, its ease of operation, its ability to eliminate synthetic fungicides, its effectiveness in controlling fungal infections and its economic savings so as to be widely adopted.

    We intend to test several different mulch types in conjunction with two different OMRI certified herbicides. We will evaluate which combinations effectively control weeds and compare the combined costs of the mulch, its application and upkeep and the herbicide to determine which are within an acceptable range for a commercial vineyard to adopt over synthetic herbicides.

    The results of this research would be of considerable interest and economic importance to vineyard owners in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, which are home to over 2,200 vineyards.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.