Use of Composts in Grapes for Improving Vine Health – Soils

2001 Annual Report for LNE01-150

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $149,732.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $129,222.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
James Travis
Penn State University Fruit Research and Extension

Use of Composts in Grapes for Improving Vine Health – Soils


A compost spreader was modified and calibrated to apply broadcast applications at several rates in vineyards. Compost applications were made to three grower vineyards and three research vineyards. Treatment compost types used were yard trimmings, animal manure, and mushroom substrate. Team member meetings, which included the growers, were held in July of 2001, prior to the compost applications and again in December to review the project progress and to plan for the second year applications and data collection. An article was published by one of the grower team members in a commercial wine grape journal describing the use of compost in vineyards.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Document the effectiveness of different types of compost to suppress fruit and root pathogens, and improve vine and soil health in growers’ vineyards.

As a result of cooperating grower presentations at demonstration plot field days and the publication of compost application guidelines for vineyards, 50 additional growers will adopt the use of compost in their vineyards for disease suppression and to improve vine soil health.


A compost spreader, which was purchased through grower funding, was modified and calibrated to precisely apply compost to vineyards. High quality compost suppliers were identified and contracted to supply yard trimming, animal manure, and mushroom substrate compost to the three grower vineyard sites for application in July. These sites were designed to evaluate the compost impact on vine and soil health. Each grower plot compost treatment was replicated four times in a randomized complete block design. Compost was also applied to three research vineyard sites using four replications in a randomized complete block design.

The research compost sites are designed to evaluate vine and soil health on a Concord vineyard and fruit and foliage disease suppression on Chancellor and Vignoles (wine grapes) vineyards. A compost supplier is currently composting grape pomace for application next season. An additional compost application will be applied to each of the grower vineyards and the Concord vineyard in the spring of 2002 to evaluate a range of compost rates of 30 to 60 tons of compost per acre applied as a broadcast application. As a general rule, 65 tons of compost will cover an acre one inch thick. One more grower vineyard research plot is planned for a spring 2002 application. A mature Chardonnay vineyard at a grower site, trained to a Scott-Henry trellis system, will be evaluated for a band (4.5 foot strip under the plant row) application verses a broadcast application. The broadcast and band application will both receive a rate of 30 tons per acre. The Chardonnay vineyard will be evaluated for vine and soil health and disease suppression.

Although it is early in the project, several grower educational meetings and a popular article on compost use in vineyards has been published. Grower team members and Penn State University extension personnel have delivered the educational programs to growers. To date, 240 grape growers have attended educational meetings where the use of compost in vineyards has been discussed. More educational sessions are planned for 2002. The extension bulletin on vineyard compost application has been initiated and will be revised and further developed during 2002.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Soil nutrient and compost samples were collected for analysis prior to compost application on all plots. All vineyard sites will be balanced pruned this winter to establish individual vine growth values from the last growing season. Techniques for soil microbial activity analysis will be developed to begin measuring the impact of compost on soil microbial populations beginning in 2002.


Mark Chien

Regional Extension Viticulturalist
Phillip Roth

grape grower
Bryan Hed

Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Ce
Robert Crassweller

Penn State University
Sid Butler

grape grower and winemaker
Joanne Levengood

grape grower and winemaker
Nancy Wenner

Penn State University
Elwin Stewart

Penn State University
Andy Muza

Erie County Extension
Noemi Halbrendt

Fruit Research & Extension Center