A heap of curious University of Adelaide researchers have found that planting cover crops directly underneath grapevines can help mitigate the effects of climate change and improve land sustainability, causing a 23 per cent increase in soil organic carbon.
The rise in SOC was recorded when compared to a standard method of spraying herbicide on the soil, while increasing levels of SOC can promote soil structure, improves soil aeration, water drainage and retention, along with removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
University of Adelaide PhD student and lead author Joseph Marks, said the benefits of planting cover crops between the rows of vineyards was well known but less research had been conducted on the effects of under-vine cover crops.
"We found that cover crop-managed soil under-vine retains up to 23 per cent more soil organic carbon as the traditional, herbicide practice over a five-year period of growth.
"Microbial activity increased by more than double in cover crop soils, owing to an increase in dissolved organic carbon and that there is evidence for more resistant carbon in cover crop soils.
"These results suggest that cover crop management under-vine is a potential solution to increase SOC stocks within vineyard systems."
Mr Marks said study results indicate that a shift from bare earth to cover crops in the under-vine region had the potential to contain carbon in vineyard soils
The study was conducted on two vineyard sites established in 2014, examining soil from four different treatments, including two cover crop combinations, a straw mulch and a herbicide-managed control.
Soils were sampled under-vine to depths of up to 30 centimetres and were analysed for concentrations of soil organic carbon and bulk density, to determine the level of soil organic carbon in the soil.
Cover crops are planted to provide soil cover rather than for the purpose of being harvested.
They are used to slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability, smother weeds, help control pests and diseases and increase biodiversity.
Dr Thomas Lines, Chris Penfold and Professor Tim Cavagnaro also contributed to the research.
Support for the research came from Wine Australia, who provided support through its top-up scholarship program and awarded Mr Marks the inaugural Dr Tony Jordan OAM Award in 2020, providing additional funds towards his research.
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