Chapter 30

Cover Cropping in Vineyards

Life Cycle of Cover Crops

Cover crops are usually classified by temporal occurrence, divided into annuals that last up to one year or perennials that last at least three years. Annual cover crops can be categorized into two main classes: (1) crops that are adapted to cool, short days (winter cover crops such as hairy vetch) and (2) those that are adapted to hot, long days (summer cover crops such as cowpea). Growers must select the right species for their particular situation. Appendix O, Cover Crops for Vineyards, provide a brief description of some of the more commonly used cover crops.

Annual Cover Crops

Annual cover crops are chosen for multiple reasons in vineyards. One reason to grow annual cover crops rather than perennial cover crops is to provide seasonal soil conservation in the winter months followed by removing the cover crop by tillage in the spring or the dry season (summer).

Perennial Cover Crops

Perennial species are most commonly used in vineyards planted on deep, fertile soils where overly vigorous vines are a problem. However, perennial cover crops may be more competitive with the vines, particularly in newly planted vineyards or in shallow or less fertile soils and will have a devigorating effect on the vineyard. Drought tolerant and drought avoidant perennial grasses are popular among many grape growers.

Biennial Cover Crops

Biennial cover crops grow for two seasons, but don't actually bloom until the second year. They can be a bit trickier to grow, because they need care over the winter between their first and second growing season.

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