Intercropping experiments in Hungarian vineyards

Ádám Donkó, Tamás Miglécz, Béla Tótmérész, Orsolya Valkó, Balázs Deák, András Kelemen, Péter Török, Gábor Zanathy, György Zsigrai, Dóra Drexler


Intensive mechanical soil cultivation and herbicide treatment was often the preferred technology in vineyards in the second half of the 20th century. In the last decades we increasingly experienced the disadvantages of these suboptimal technologies: soil degradation, erosion and deflation damages. Alternative cultivation methods were sought for research and practice, especially in organic viticulture. The use of well-adapted cover-crop mixtures in the vine inter-rows poses a possible solution for weed control, soil conservation and biodiversity development. The technology has a special importance on steep slopes: it helps to prevent erosion damages and provides easier cultivation circumstances. In 2012 the Hungarian Research institute of Organic Agriculture in collaboration with other experts and growers began to study three different species-rich cover crop mixtures (Biocont-Ecovin, Legume mixture, Grass-herb mixture) in Hungarian vineyards. Each mixture was sown in three neighbouring inter-rows at each experimental site. After sowing (March 2012) we studied vegetation composition (June 2012, 2013 and 2014), pruning weight and diameter of the second bearing spur of the stocks, yield quality and quantity. Most of the sown species established successfully and in 2012 we found that Biocont-Ecovin and the mixture of legumes were the most effective in weed suppression. For 2013 we detected lower weed coverage in the inter-rows sown with the grass-herb and legume mixtures, while in control and Biocont-Ecovin inter-rows we detected increasing weed coverage. In the third year (2014) we found in every plot? that the grass-herb mixture-covered inter-rows were the least weedy. The most successful species in the inter-rows are: Coronilla varia, Lotus corniculatus, Medicago lupulina, Onobrychis viciifolia, Plantago lanceolata, Trifolium repens, Trifolium pratense. Viticultural measurements (2014) show a 10-13 % decrease of yield in case of covered inter-rows, and a 26 and 21 % reduction in pruning weight (Gróf Degenfeld and Tokaj-Hétszőlő), especially apparent in young plantations. For Hungarian conditions it is therefore recommended to implement this technology in every second inter-row where erosion control is not required.

Keywords: grapevine, cover crops, erosion, biodiversity, species rich mixtures

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