These Methods Help Vineyards Manage Weed Control

Multiple factors go into managing weeds in the vines, and circumstances unique to individual vineyards located in different regions contribute to these.

BARRA of Mendocino in Redwood Valley, California is a certified organic winery. That means pesticides aren’t allowed and weed, disease and insect management involves a bit of moxie.

Without the easy application of commercially available chemical concoctions, the vineyard crew taps into its ingenuity for things like weed control.

“I was out in the vineyard this morning, and because of the high price of gas, our guys were being very innovative,” owner Martha Barra said. “Because we don’t use herbicides, we get grass and weeds that come back up in the middle of the row after cultivating. And so we have a tractor with a blade and ripper, and we have another tractor that usually goes through with a roller.

“Our guys had rigged all three pieces of equipment onto one tractor so that they could cut, rip and roll since you can’t spray for weeds under the vines.”

BARRA Winemaker Randy Meyer also mentioned witnessing the crew coming up with creative solutions amongst the vines.

“One of the guys took a hand-held hedger and hooked it onto a four-wheeler and rigged it up so that it would slide under the vine and do a little cane cutting and cleaning so that they didn’t have to run a full-sized tractor,” he noted. “Selectively cleaning out part of the vine makes it easier during harvest time.”

Lost Oak Winery’s North Texas estate in Burleson is in a wetter part of the state than vineyards located in the Hill Country or High Plains regions. So fungicides, insecticides and herbicides play a big role in keeping the vines healthy during the early part of the growing season when rainfall is typically at its heaviest. But the vineyards in the High Plains that provide grapes for some of its wines get by mostly with just herbicides to kill weeds, with the help of retrofitted equipment to keep the rows tidy, President Roxanne Myers said.

“We also have a method on the high plains of using tractor equipment, so you don’t have to use herbicides to pull up the weeds and remove them, and it doesn’t require the use of as much herbicide,” Myers said. “We retrofit the equipment.”

The tractor equipment comes into play when the vine is a little older, she explained. When vines are young, she noted, they’re almost like weeds so you can’t really use the tractor. The vines are covered with grow tubes to protect them so that when herbicides are sprayed, the vines are spared.

“With the tractor equipment, it’s usually when the vine’s a little bit older, and it goes in there and works on the surface of the earth,” she said. “There are little forks that go in there. But you have to use technique to get in there. You have to know what you’re looking for. It’s not automated.”

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