Soil Management

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

soil management, the practices of cultivation, or non-cultivation, of soils in vineyards, including the use of cover crops, compost, and mulches, and other measures to improve the soil’s physical, chemical, and biological condition (see soil fertility.). In the broadest sense this term can also embrace irrigation, the use of herbicides, and the addition of fertilizer.

In the past, soil management has consisted primarily of clean cultivation to control weeds. The advantages of this approach include the avoidance of herbicides and forcing roots to go deeper. The disadvantages of this approach are increasingly recognized, however. Over time, clean cultivation leads to a deterioration in soil structure and also to a decline in soil biota, particularly earthworms. Modern soil management seeks to conserve and, if necessary, increase the organic matter content; to conserve and improve soil structure and porosity, and thereby improve aeration and free absorption and drainage of soil water and resistance to soil erosion; and to maintain a reserve of nutrients in organic and slowly available inorganic forms to provide a steady and balanced supply of soil nutrients matched to the plants’ needs.