Weeds reduce vineyard productivity and affect grape quality by competing with grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.) for water and nutrients. The increased banning of herbicides has prompted the evaluation of alternative soil management strategies. Cover cropping seems to be the best alternative for weed management. However, it may impact vine growth, grape yield, and quality. Quantitative studies on these changes are scarce. Our study aimed to investigate the combined effect of grass cover and water availability on vines of three cultivars, the white Chasselas and Petite Arvine and the red Pinot noir field-grown under identical climatic and pedological conditions and grafted onto the same rootstock. Soil management and irrigation experiments were performed during the 2020-2021 seasons. Two extreme soil management practices were established in the vineyard, based on 100 % bare soil (BS) by the application of herbicides with glufosinate or glyphosate as active ingredients and 100 % grass-covered soil (GS) by cover cropping with a mixture of plant species. Two water statuses were imposed by drip irrigation (DI) and no irrigation (NI). The level of vine-weed competition for water and nitrogen (N) was assessed in the vine, must, and wine solid residues (WSRs) by comparing measurements, i.e., the yeast assimilable N content, C/NWSR, carbon and N isotope ratios (δ13Cgrape-sugars, δ13CWSR, and δ15NWSR) among the different treatments (BS-DI, BS-NI, GS-DI, GS-NI). The increase in the δ13Cgrape-sugars and δ13CWSR values with increasing plant water deficit mimicked the observations in irrigation experiments on BS. The NWSR content and δ15NWSR values decreased with water stress and much more strongly in vines on GS. The dramatic N deficit in rainfed vines on GS could be alleviated with irrigation. The present study provides insights from chemical and stable isotope analyses into the potential impact of cover cropping in vineyards in the context of the banning of herbicides in a time of global water scarcity due to climate change.
Keywords: Climate change; Cover crop; Herbicide ban; Nitrogen deficit; No tillage; No weeding; Vineyards; Water status; Wine solid residues; δ(13)C and δ(15)N.
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