Vineyard weed control
Modern vignerons manage organic vineyard weed control and under vine weed management in several ways. Mostly chemical means, using glyphosate, an organic salt, other chemical herbicide means, usually by spraying a fine mist onto all the plants under vine and by mechanical means, using ploughs that cut the soil or rotary action.
Now that the European Union is looking at banning glyphosate other methods are being looked at. One of them is the “Silly Plough”
Silly Plough or Strip Digger
At Harris Organic vineyard the growth under vine grapevine weed control uses a “silly plough”. Harris has never included any chemical herbicide usage.
The small Iseki G174 diesel tractor was used. Pulling the “silly plough” along the rows to strip away the soil and growth under the vines. This aids the health and fitness of the operator and the communication skills of the plough-man and driver. Now you can guess who drove the tractor and who did the yelling!
Under vine weeding, hat on, glasses focussed
Organic weed control
Mechanical Weeding, not Chemical Weeding
There is a lot we can learn from the old ways in the Swan Valley region about organic weed control. At a recent European exhibition, there was not a single under-vine herbicide machine, they were all mechanical machines as many European vineyards are going to organic viticulture.
Further, this gives some context to the recent decision from the French and Belgium Governments to ban the sale of glyphosate (the active constituent in Roundup). A large portion of European grape growers is opting for organic/biodynamic vineyards. The progress of the organic movement has allowed the advancement of chemical-free options for organic weed control.
Organic vignerons are turning to engineering companies that produce practical, versatile machines that combine a number of operations. These are all changeable to the base unit on the tractor.
Use an under vine blade, mulcher or a rotary hoe which are easily attached to the side-mounted unit. as a beneficial system.
This gives the grapevine grower the ability to adapt to each vineyard situation which is crucial in Australian vineyards due to our varied weed species, vine age and differing soil types.
Here in this video is what we do now in our organic vineyard.
Glyphosate resistance is already a problem across the country, due to normal weeds becoming resistant to herbicides.
Then we should all be looking at ways we can manage our weed populations. Also, effective, efficient and in the most sustainable manner by ploughing. In the first instance giving the under vine area, a shallow ploughing removes the chemical-resistant weeds.
“When is glyphosate going to be banned in Australia”, that is, the question.
Is it possible to have a tractorless vineyard? Yes, I believe it is possible, however, the capital cost may be prohibitive, depending on how it is set up.
A fox-proof fenced vineyard, that is filled with free-range chickens during the autumn, winter and spring, I can envisage. During the summer the chickens would need to be housed in a separate area away from the vines as free-range chickens eat grapes.
The free-range chickens will clean up and weed all the vineyard and reduce ground-dwelling vine pests as well as pest control.
Sheep may be an alternative too, but they will eat spring shoots.
A dual business between grape grower and free-range egg producer may be the answer.
Vineyard Ground cover species
AWRI has investigated several different ground cover species, such as kangaroo grass, triticale and prostrate salt bush as all possible ground cover crops to use in a vineayrd.
This year we are experimenting with not ploughing a row, letting everything go to seed and see what happens in the coming year.