Cover Crops as a Tool for Vineyard Floor Management to Improve Soil Quality of Rocky Vineyard Soils

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2023: $73,600.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2026
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Cody Copp
Oregon State University
Chris Banek
Banek Winegrower Management
Rich Funk
Saviah Cellars
Jack Klipfel
Mt. Fuji & The Rocks LLC
Brooke Robertson
Delmas | SJR Vineyard


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    In the rocky soils of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, orchards with permanent ground cover are transitioning into clean-cultivated vineyards. The influence of exposed rocky soils on wine organoleptic qualities—in addition to the difficulty of herbicide use in this system—contributes to repeated cultivation during the season and little to no vegetative cover throughout the year.

    This project seeks to improve vineyard floor management and soil stewardship in the vineyards planted to very rocky soils through cover crop species demonstration plots, winter and perennial cover crop trials, and Extension-based outreach to increase adoption of these practices. The demonstration plots will screen many species for regional viability. The winter and perennial trials will evaluate vine growth, grape quality, cover crop growth, and soil health over three years to evaluate and refine these two systems for use in rocky soils.

    This project will lead to observable improvements in soil quality and vine health while maintaining wine quality and improving sustainability claims of winegrowing for region-wide economic benefit. Outreach will consist of annual field tours, presentations at the local grower's meetings and symposium, as well as targeted materials for winemakers and wine consumers. This project is expected to produce new cover crop recommendations for rocky soils in this region and beyond, increase grower and winemaker openness to cover cropping, and improve the quality of vineyard soils through wider adoption of these practices. Outreach activities will be used to disseminate the trial results and formal surveys will measure the changes in openness and adoption of practices.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Demonstrate the viability (e.g., establishment, stand density, growth) of various cover crop species for winter vineyard floor management in very rocky soils.
    2. Measure impact of a winter cover crop on vine phenology, vegetative growth, fruit composition, and soil quality in vineyards with very rocky soils.
    3. Trial a perennial cover crop in a very rocky soil to determine changes in vegetative growth, vine water relations, nutrient status, fruit composition, wine quality, and soil quality.
    4. Survey producers’ current practices, knowledge of, and openness to cover crops as a vineyard floor management tool in very rocky soils and extend the results from the research trials to share information and shift management practices.
    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.