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Soil sustenance.

"When you find a vineyard site that produces great wine, you want to be sure that it will continue to do so for as long as possible," stated Glenn McGourty, the moderator of a panel discussion on "Long-Term Plant and Soil Health" at the upcoming Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. "Soil management practices are often over-looked. Protecting your soil from erosion, while creating and maintaining soil conditions that encourage healthy root growth, water-holding capacity and optimum nutrition for the vines is an important part of ensuring year-to-year potential for the best quality fruit and wine. It can also extend the productive life of the vineyard, and therefore is an important part of economic sustainability."

McGourty, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor, continued, "In this session, we will look at how you plan from the beginning for healthy vineyard soil, and how sustainable practices affect soil and plant health. Speakers will focus on practical solutions to some of the common constraints that winegrowers encounter in their vineyards."

One of those speakers, Dr. Paul Anamosa of Vineyard Soil Technologies, is a soil scientist in Napa, Calif. He said it is important for growers to understand the three major inter-related components of their soil to enhance its long-term health: soil physics, soil chemistry and soil biology. There are qualitatively "good" versus "poor" aspects to each of these that can strongly affect both of the others, Anamosa said.

"In order to maintain an overall favorable environment for vine growth, they must all be considered in both the soil assessment and vineyard soil management," he maintained. "Of the three, the importance of soil chemistry--and specifically soil fertility--is probably over-emphasized, and the impact of soil structure (aggregation, aeration, pore size distribution) and soil biology is under-emphasized.

"At the vineyard management levels, there is still a large majority of vineyards that are planted or replanted without the assistance of a competent soil assessment," he said. "This may result in many long-term problems in vineyard performance that are frequently never related back to the soil."

The problem of elevated salt levels in vineyard soils will be a focus of Mark Battany's comments during this session. "The growing conditions in many areas of the Central Coast can lead to elevated levels of soil salinity--and consequently to reductions in vine growth and productivity," said Battany, a UCCE advisor.

"The causes of the elevated salinity levels are the relatively dry winters with limited natural leaching, and the reliance on groundwater for irrigation, which often contains significant amounts of salts," he explained.

Salinity management practices "may include amending with gypsum, applying additional irrigation during the growing season, leaching soils with sprinklers after the growing season, acquiring better quality irrigation water if possible, and choosing more salinity-resistant rootstocks when redeveloping sites," according to Battany.

Long-Term Plant and Soil Health

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2:40-4:10 p.m


Glenn McGourty, University of California Cooperative Extension, Mendocino/Lake counties


Paul Anamosa, Vineyard Soil Technologies; Mark Battany, University of California Cooperative Extension, Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo counties; Stan Grant, Progressive Viticulture; Rob Mikkelsen, International Plant Nutrition Institute.
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Title Annotation:UNIFIED PREVIEW
Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Dec 1, 2009
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