Correct management of soil and irrigation is a vital factor in modern viticulture, due to the influence of the water balance of the vineyard on wine quality and the environmental impact of agricultural practices on vineyard soils. In order to innovate in this area, the NEIKER-Tecnalia technological centre is carrying out research on the influence of temporary cover crop and different irrigation regimes for the typical flat and sloping soils of Rioja Alavesa region on yield, vine vigour and grape and wine quality. The initial results when cover crops are planted show a reduction in the water availability of the vineyard, reflected in a reduction of yield and vigour, as well as in an improvement of the quality parameters of the must and wine. The results of the study can be used to help grapegrowers acquire a better understanding of their vineyards and adjust their management practices so as to obtain the highest possible quality.
The study took place in 2008 on a plot in Rioja Alavesa region (Bodegas y Viedos Zuazo y Gastn), within the Denominacin de Origen Calificada Rioja. The vineyard consists of double cordon espaliered Tempranillo vines. Two typical soils of Rioja Alavesa region were identified: sloping soil with an average depth of 70 cm and very exposed to erosion and flat soil with an average depth of 150 cm that tends to accumulate soil eroded from the slopes (Figure 1). The trial studied how different management practices affected the yield, vigour and quality of the grape and wine obtained. Different irrigation regimes were tried, along with two soil management programmes: conventional tillage and the use of temporary cover crop. The conventional tillage consisted of using machines four or five times a year (chisel and rotary), while the cover crop consisted of planting barley between the vine rows to compete with them and protect the soil against erosion.
Five different treatments were implanted during the study: 'slope with convent
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