Investigating annual under-vine cover crops as a sustainable alternative to herbicides in Northeast vineyards

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,876.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Justine Vanden Heuvel
Cornell University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Production Systems: permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Grape growers traditionally use herbicides on the vineyard floor, which contributes to resistance, runoff, environmental contamination, and soil degradation. Currently cover crops are generally only grown between rows, while an herbicide strip is maintained directly under grapevines, leaving the bare soil prone to erosion and herbicide leaching. Given the expense of herbicide applications and rising consumer demands for sustainably produced wine, the Northeastern U.S. could greatly benefit from investigating alternative and sustainable vineyard floor management practices. This proposal seeks to fund a study that uses annual cover crops to replace the conventional bare soil beneath vines, which would eliminate herbicide use in the vineyard and potentially improve fruit and wine quality. In the Finger Lakes region of New York State, for a third and fourth growing season, this study will compare two annually established cover crops, chicory and buckwheat, planted directly underneath Riesling grapevines, to the conventionally bare soil maintained with glyphosate. How under-vine cover crops affect vine vegetative growth, harvest yields, fruit and juice characteristics and wine quality will all be examined. Additionally, the irrigation design of the experiment enables half of the treatment vines to be watered throughout the season. This will allow a better understanding of how cover crops affect the water status of vines, a large determinant of vine growth and fruit quality. This grant would help fund long-term research of an economically and environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional herbicide use in vineyards of the growing Northeastern grape and wine industry.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Evaluate under-vine cover crops as a sustainable alternative to herbicide use in the Finger Lakes, New York over several growing seasons.
    2. To determine if annual cover crop species planted in under-vine rows reduce excessive vine vegetative growth and vigor and improve canopy architecture, resulting in improved fruit and wine quality.
    3. Evaluate if under-vine cover crops compete with grapevines to alter vine water and nutrient status.
    4. To promote sustainable vineyard floor management alternatives like under-vine cover crops in cool and humid climates to researchers and growers.

    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.