Innovative undertrellis management for vineyards

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $146,243.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Alice Wise
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
  • Pest Management: mulches - living

    Proposal abstract:

    Herbicides and nitrates are the most common contaminants of ground and surface waters in Suffolk County. Herbicides are used in Long Island vineyards to maintain a weed-free zone under the trellis to minimize competition for water and nutrients. Nitrogen fertilizers are applied to boost vine growth and nutrient status. Grape growers are eager to adopt management strategies that minimize pesticide and fertilizer inputs but there is scant information available on how to do this while maintaining optimal fruit quality. Due to various obstacles such as perceived high cost and negative impacts on vines, growers are reluctant to implement large-scale alternative vineyard floor management solutions without an in-depth understanding of strategies and costs. We propose to evaluate alternative strategies for undertrellis (under-vine) management through research projects and demonstration plots that explore a range of management options including mowing and the use of seeded perennial ground covers. This work will include a detailed examination of management practices on vine growth, fruit composition, and nitrate leaching to groundwater. By incorporating data and observations from research and demonstration plots, growers will possess the knowledge and tools for evaluating and implementing alternative strategies in their own vineyards. Our team will survey regional growers to determine current under-vine management practices and assess experience with alternative strategies. We will coordinate a Polycom presentation of preliminary results from green cover projects in Virginia and the Finger Lakes to spark grower interest. These presentations will help to determine the size and scope of green cover demonstration plots at the five grower-advisor vineyards. Vine and fruit impacts will be documented by educators with assistance from industry personnel. Grower-advisors will host field meetings at their vineyards and participate in evaluation and follow up of the trials. They will mentor other growers, in person and via a blog, as they implement these strategies. These efforts will benefit the Long Island wine industry (2500 acres and 56 wine producers) as well as wine grape producers throughout eastern North America. We will extend project progress and results to local and regional growers through educational activities including but not limited to newsletter articles and periodic posts to a dedicated blog. Presentations at summer field meetings and winter meetings will facilitate discussion of management strategies. Ultimately, we expect fifteen Long Island growers will adopt green cover management strategies on 400 acres. We anticipate an estimated savings of $210/acre in reduced herbicide costs, application costs and canopy management costs.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    15 growers adopt mowing and/or green covers under the trellis on a total of 400 acres, reducing leachable nitrate by ? 10%, reducing or eliminating herbicides, and reducing canopy management inputs, saving $210/acre while maintaining or improving yield and quality.

    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.