A few weeks ago we had a tractor tilling between the rows of our Adelaida vineyard and while that doesn't sound very exciting, it brought up an interesting conversation about our soil management.
My dad shared with me that we have been a part of a soil project the last couple of years that was implemented by the local RCD (a.k.a. Upper Salinas - Las Tablas Conservation District) and funded by the CDFA (a.k.a. California Department of Food and Agriculture). While my dad might have told me this before, it was like hearing new information and I had to know more. So, he directed me to our vineyard management company, Vineyard Professional Services (VPS), to fill me in. The Chief Operating Officer of VPS, Linnea Smith, reached out to me with a great document (thank you, Linnea!).
VPS has been working with the RCD to study the impact of middle row management and soil health over four years (2021 marks the last year). The reason for this study is that generally vineyard managers till between vineyard rows to reduce weeds and pests as they are competition for the vineyard's water...a precious resource. The problem with this practice is that it is expensive, time-consuming, and impacts erosion control. The updated practices are easy to implement and can be applied by any vineyard in California.
In 2018, Parrish Family Vineyard's Templeton and Adelaida vineyards were brought into the trial along with three other local vineyards with diverse terroir; soil, and microclimates. In the trial, they tried different cover crops; brome grasses and barley. Then they tried a mix of mowing versus discing. The RCD took soil samples each year and observed the changes in the soil. They took note of the amount of organic matter, nutrient levels, and soil biology and diversity. The hope for the project is that it will lead to an increase of organic matter, improve water retention, and long-term storage of carbon in the soil.
In simple terms, the changed soil practices will mean less water, improved water quality, and fewer pests...overall making the vines productive. That's a win, win, win! This project shows how important soil is in the vineyard. Soil needs to have nutrients and water retention to feed the roots of the vines...otherwise, you will see problems with the season's development.
Thanks to the RCD and VPS for including Parrish Family Vineyard in these important trials. It is another example of the Ag Industry innovating and improving to meet the challenges around them. The farmer has always had to adapt and always will, due to climate, disease, pests, and economics.
We'll see how 2021 concludes for this project, so for now, we will wait with a glass of wine and appreciate the efforts as the wine starts in the vineyard.
Cecily Parrish Ray