Evaluation of Nitrogen Management Schemes upon Vine Performance in Cover Cropped Vineyards
Vineyards in the Eastern United States are often prone to excessive vegetative growth. In order to suppress excessive vine vigor, many viticulturists have employed cover cropping strategies. Cover crops provide a myriad of agronomic benefits, however they are known to compete with the vine for water and nutrients. Due to the widespread use of cover crops in Eastern vineyards, many vineyards experience nitrogen (N) deficiencies in both the vegetative vine tissue and yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) in the juice. Soil applications of calcium nitrate and foliar applications of urea were assessed as a means of vineyard N amelioration at cover cropped sites comprised of Petit Manseng and Sauvignon blanc (Vitis vinifera L.). Perennial White and Crimson clover cover crops and foliar urea applications were also used in a Vidal blanc (Vitis spp.) vineyard. Treatments were imposed in the Sauvignon blanc vineyard for five years. The Petit Manseng and Vidal blanc vineyards were subjected to treatments for two years. Soil-applied N at bloom was most effective at increasing leaf petiole N at véraison, season-long chlorophyll content index (CCI), vine capacity and fruit yield. Fruit yield was increased due to more berries per cluster and greater berry weights. Increased rates of soil-applied N decreased the fruit weight:pruning weight ratio. Clover cover crops offered little to no benefit as a N source in the two-year period of evaluation. None of the N management schemes negatively impacted canopy density, fruit zone light interception, or botrytis bunch rot incidence. The combination of both a soil-applied and foliar-applied N fertilizer may be the most effective means to increase both vine capacity and YAN in vineyards where vineyard floor cover crops are compromising vine N status.