Cover Crop

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

cover crop, a crop of plants other than vines established in the vineyard, typically between the rows, generally for biodiversity (see ecosystem) and the benefit of the vineyard soil. Also known as a sward, or sod culture, and couvert végétal in French, it is an alternative to bare soil created by cultivation or herbicides. Sometimes cover crops are not deliberately sown but volunteer plants or weeds are allowed to grow instead. Cover crops are normally mown during the vine-growing season, and may be removed by cultivation or herbicide spray (but see organic viticulture). Typical sown cover crops are grasses and legumes. The grasses used may be native to the area or specially introduced species such as perennial rye grass, fescue, or bent grasses, although often cereals such as barley or oats are used. Legumes sown as cover crops include clovers, medics, peas, vetches, and beans. Occasionally, deep-rooted cover crops such as chicory (Chicorium intybus) are sown to compete for soil water with over-vigorous vines. Cover crop management is more difficult in high-density, narrow-spaced vineyards, such as Bordeaux’s left bank and Champagne (see vine density).