Cover crops can reduce the cost of under-vine weed control

Jake Howie, Christopher Penfold, Thomas Nordblom, Mark Norton, Melanie Weckert

    Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    A lot of time and money is spent by vignerons attempting to maintain a weed-free environment in the under-vine zone of their vineyards, primarily to conserve moisture and enhance amenity. This is typically achieved with the use of herbicides or straw mulch, however the repeated use of herbicides can lead to negative outcomes such as herbicide resistance and reduced soil quality from loss of organic matter, soil compaction and reduced infiltration.
    We investigated the ability of a range of herbage species to create a “living” mulch to achieve the broad aims of weed control while maintaining, or even improving, grape yield, quality and soil health.
    A site was established in 2014 on a block of Shiraz (SARDI Research Centre, Nuriootpa, SA) where the performance of ten cover crop treatments (including herbicide and straw mulch controls) were compared over the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons. A range of parameters were monitored including the performance of the cover crops (eg dry matter production, botanical composition); vine productivity (eg cane growth, berry quality and grape yield); soil health (eg soil resistance, moisture, nutrient and microbial status).
    The two best performing treatments, (1) a mixture of Medicago polymorpha (cv Scimitar) and Lolium rigidum (cv Safeguard) and (2) M. littoralis (cv Angel) and M. truncatula cv (Sultan), resulted in similar suppression of weeds and improved grape yields (cf. herbicide control). Combined with lower operational costs, this provided an average gross margin advantage of $1,610 and $1,750/ha/yr (32-35% increase) respectively, equal to that of the straw mulch.
    The higher yields suggest a beneficial response to the presence of selected herbage species with a possible enhancement of soil quality, both physical and microbiological. Our preliminary results suggest that vignerons could consider using locally adapted herbage species as cover crops, as a positive alternative to under-vine weed control by herbicide.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - May 2018
    Event6th South Australian Weeds Conference - Charles Hawker Conference Centre, Urrbrae, Australia
    Duration: 02 May 201803 May 2018
    Conference number: 6 (abstract booklet) (conference program)


    Conference6th South Australian Weeds Conference
    Abbreviated titleWeed Management
    Internet address


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