FFAR grant to help improve vineyard soil health

Wine grapes are sensitive to subtle changes in temperature and rainfall, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Regenerative agriculture, which uses holistic farming and grazing practices to boost soil health and crop productivity, can help vines become more resilient to changing weather conditions. However, more research is needed to increase the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices in vineyards.

UC Davis assistant professor of soil and plant nutrition. (Courtesy of Cristina Lazcano)

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $999,003 grant to the University of California, Davis to assess the effects of regenerative practices on vineyard soil health. Jackson Family Wines provided matching funds for a total investment of $2.6 million.

Regenerative agriculture can help sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide as soil organic matter, playing a key role in mitigating climate change. Regenerative agriculture offers the “layering” of well-known soil conservation practices, such as compost, no-till, and cover crops, to leverage synergies and maximize soil health benefits. This technique often includes the reintegration of plant and animal production. For wine grapes, this usually involves bringing sheep to the vineyards.

However, the impact of soil health practices on vineyards remains difficult to predict due to a variety of factors, including management strategies, climate, and soil type, all of which can influence carbon sequestration potential.

Building Soil Carbon and Soil Health

Led by Dr. Cristina Lazcano of UC Davis, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from UC Davis, USDA Agricultural Research Service, California Polytechnic State University, Oregon State University, and Skidmore College examines how regenerative agriculture can boost soil carbon and soil health in vineyards and its effects on crop yield, grape and wine quality.

“Timbery perennial crops like wine grapes have great potential to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change,” said Lazcano, associate professor in the Department of Earth, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis. “For this reason, the wine grape industry is uniquely positioned to spearhead regenerative farm management efforts. We are proud to contribute to the development of science-based best management practices to support the sustainability efforts of the wine grape industry.

Lazcano and his team are establishing reliable sampling methods to determine changes in soil carbon abundance in vineyards. The team examines the relationship between historical soil management and soil carbon to estimate the carbon reduction potential of regenerative management in US West Coast vineyards. They are also evaluating the effects of regenerative practices in a series of 12 controlled field trials spanning from Oregon’s Willamette Valley to Santa Barbara, California.

This research aims to provide farmers with an in-depth understanding of how soil management practices stimulate soil carbon sequestration while connecting the dots between changes in soil carbon, soil health and soil quality. grape.

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