Groundcover, rootstock and root restriction effects on vegetative growth, crop yield components, and fruit composition of Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine vineyards in humid environments like the mid-Atlantic United States are characterized by vines that develop too much vegetative growth for optimum quality wine production. Cover crops, rootstocks and rootzone restriction were evaluated for their effect on vegetative and reproductive growth on Cabernet Sauvignon. Treatments were arranged in a strip-split-split plot arrangement with under-trellis cover crops (UTCC) compared to row-middle only cover crop combined with 1-m weed-free strips in the vine row as main plots. Rootstocks riparia Gloire, 420-A, and 101-14 were sub-plots, while sub-sub-plots comprised two treatments: vines were either planted in root-restrictive (RR), fabric bags (0.016 m3) at vineyard establishment (2006), or were planted without root restriction. All three factors were effective in suppressing vegetative development as measured by rate and extent of shoot growth, lateral shoot development, trunk circumference, and dormant pruning weights. Canopies of vines with UTCC and RR had reduced leaf layer values by approximately 21% and 23% compared to conventional controls. The principal effect of the UTCC and the RR treatments was a sustained reduction in stem (xylem) water potential. UTCC and RR caused significant 7 and 10% reductions in berry weight, compared to their conventional controls. Berry weights of vines grafted to riparia were greater than those of vines grafted to other rootstocks. Wine made from UTCC and RR treatments increased red wine color compared to herbicide UTGC and NRR, respectively. This study identified treatments that improve vine balance while simultaneously improving grape composition and potential wine quality.