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Soil health management for sustainable viticulture: A framework for research and on-farm practice

by | Feb 26, 2023 | Viticulture

Project Number:

Project title:
Soil health management for sustainable viticulture: A framework for research and on-farm practice

Project leader:
Setati, E

South African Grape and Wine Research Institute, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University

Start date:

Project description:
The aims of this project are to (i) identify key soil health indicators and threshold values to generate guidelines on best practices for analysing soil health in South African viticulture and (ii) Draft a report highlighting common soil health indicators relevant to the wine industry and a Soil Health Research framework to aid producers with decision-making around soil health interventions.

In viticulture, healthy soil is crucial to support grapevine growth and the production of good quality grapes. For this purpose, the soil needs to have balanced physical, chemical and biological attributes.  To assess this, regular testing is conducted. A suite of physical, chemical and biological indicators are measured and interpreted against known threshold values. However, critical soil values for some biological indicators were adapted from orchards and therefore are not specific to grapevines. Furthermore, biological indicators such as soil microbial biomass, measure the total size of the microbial population but not its composition or functional potential. Consequently, existing criteria and guidelines for the interpretation of soil health assessment data and how to best use the outcomes to sustain economically feasible and effective grape production, do not always adequately facilitate decision-making.

Existing threshold values can be refined to generate more viticulture realistic target values. Several outputs will be generated from the study. These include:

  1.   A draft framework for soil health research and measurement in viticulture and wine production
  2.   An infographic that can be used as a reference tool on soil health and in conjunction with other tools for training workshops or webinars regarding this topic will be created.

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