What’s a Cover Crop? 6 Ways These Workhorse Plants Benefit Vineyards
Nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley, the Dundee Hills draws visitors globally for the world-class Pinot Noir, but also for the commitment to sustainability. We are proud to have more B-Corps certified wineries than any other AVA in the state of Oregon.
One of the ways our vineyard managers practice sustainable farming is through the use of cover crops – plants grown between the rows of vines – in their vineyards. While their impact may seem insignificant to the untrained eye, cover crops offer far more than grassy pathways that keep boots from getting muddy.
Here are six benefits to using cover crops in a vineyard:
- Soil conservation: Cover crops help prevent soil erosion by holding the soil in place and reducing water runoff, especially in regions like the Dundee Hills that are known for steep slopes.
- Nutrient management: Cover crops add organic matter to the soil as they decompose, which helps improve soil structure and nutrient availability for the vines.
- Weed control: Cover crops help suppress weed growth by competing for resources such as water and light. Even better, suppressing weeds can eliminate the need for herbicides and other weed control methods.
- Pest management: Beneficial insects love to make their home in cover crops. These friendly bugs help control pests that damage grapevines, which reduces the need for insecticides.
- Water management: Cover crops can help regulate soil moisture and reduce the need for irrigation.
- Biodiversity: Cover crops help support a diverse ecosystem in the vineyard by providing refuge and a food source for beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife.
The next time you’re in the Dundee Hills, take a closer look at the cover crops in the vineyards. Look for the ladybugs and listen for the frogs and the birds. Notice how these plants are either soaking up the excess rainfall in the spring or keeping the ground from getting parched in the late summer. Our prestigious wine region owes much to these workhorse plants!