Cover Crops in Dry Creek Valley – Why We Plant Them
You’ve probably noticed lovely the flowers, vegetables, and other plants growing amidst the vines in our Dry Creek Valley vineyards in late Winter and Spring. As pretty as they are, crops like this are not planted for vanity’s sake; cover crops are planted as a tool to help winegrowers manage their soil throughout the year. Dry Creek Valley winegrowers are committed to sustainability, and planting the right cover crops has myriad benefits to the land and the wines themselves. Below are a few of the reasons we plant cover crops.
Protection from Erosion
The first and most common reason growers plant cover crops is to prevent soil erosion during rain. The foliage covers the soil and creates a barrier that the raindrops hit before they reach the soil, which slows the speed of the rain’s impact. This aids in preventing runoff and erosion by keeping the soil and its nutrients from moving too much.
Vine Growth Control
With strategic planting, cover crops can enable a grower to decrease grape production by giving the grapevines competition, or help to improve a vine’s vigor by augmenting nitrogen in the soil.
Fertility and Soil Composition
As cover crops decompose, they contribute nitrogen and other nutrients that can be of benefit to the grape vines. As cover crops mature and deepen their own roots, they aerate the soil and can shift its ability to hold water and nutrients. A cover crop can decrease the amount of external fertilizers a farmer needs to apply to the vineyard.
Striking a Biological Balance
Cover crop provides more food to beneficial underground organisms like earthworms! It also provides protection for beneficial predatory insects and spiders.
Biofumigation describes the suppression of various pests and diseases found in soil through naturally-occurring compounds. Mustard belongs to a family of plants that release a natural gas that acts to deter threats to our precious vines.
Finally, the mustard just looks so beautiful, it makes us giddy. We’ll leave you with some recent photos to admire.