Towards Resilient and Sustainable Grape Production in the North Central Region with Renewable Mulching Systems: Freezing stress, which could damage plant parts or kill whole vines, is the main challenge of grape production in cold regions in the U.S., including the North Central Region (NCR) leading to crop and vine losses. Soil hilling is a standard and somewhat effective cold protection practice for preventing vine loss. However, its negative impact on the soil-vine environment is a continuing problem because it contributes to soil degradation and declining vine health. Plant-based mulching is an alternative winter protection method that has not been widely adopted due to the cost of mulch and unavailability of specialized equipment in the market for its application. We propose to solve this problem by accomplishing the following objectives: 1) evaluate the efficacy and horticultural and environmental benefits of different types of renewable biomass mulch, 2) develop a mechanized prototype for mulch delivery, 3) engage local growers, throughout the life of the project, with the development/testing of a sustainable mulching system in their vineyards, and 4) evaluate the cost effectiveness of locally grown plant species and new mulching system compared to soil hilling. We expect that an optimum mulch, which provides winter protection while improving soil quality and vine performance, will be identified. We will also fabricate a mechanized apparatus that will deliver the mulch of choice. We will enhance producers’ knowledge and empowerment through education and engagement with project planning and execution. In the long-term, we predict that renewable biomass mulching will become an integral vineyard practice towards a resilient and sustainable grape production in the NCR.
Project objectives from proposal:
Growers will learn about biomass mulches and their horticultural and environmental benefits through the following deliverables: 1) workshops/field days to educate about renewable biomass mulches and demonstrate a prototype for its application. 2) presentations at the annual Ohio Grape & Wine Conference (in 2021 and 2022), 3) production of two factsheets that summarize the pros and cons of each mulch and cost analysis of its application.
- Growers will use mulching and increase profits by reducing negative impacts on soil and vine productivity.
- Growers will be confident to adopt mulching with the gained knowledge of its cost-benefit.