Two weeks ago the viticulturists from the Bo-berg region visited various cover crop trials done by Barenbrug SA outside of Malmesbury. This included various cereals, legumes and brassicas. Jaco Kellerman (Technical Manager at Barenbrug SA) was the man in charge. We spoke about these trials during the winter months and finally got to see them.
To me, this was probably the most productive field visit I have ever been to. To see all these cover crops as mono-cultures and mixed plots where amazing – thanks Jaco.
So, why do we want to conduct trials like these?
First off, the seasons are shifting. We are receiving our winter rain later each year. This means planting later in the season and also a shorter growing season for the cover crops. We need to test different varieties of cover crops to see which will perform better at later planting times.
Why do we use cover crops/What do we want from cover crops?
Cover crops are used to suppress weeds. It is an integral part of your herbicide programme in order to move towards more sustainable farming. It is also used to get organic material in your topsoil, preserve soil moisture, prevent soil erosion, fixate nitrogen, break compacted soil and keep the soil cool during summer.
The uses of cover crops are endless, and after seeing these trials, the possible mixes and even mono-cultures we have in our arsenal actually gets me excited about cover crops!
Unfortunately we have to wait another year to plant these mixes in our vineyards to see how they perform, but for now we have to focus on canopy management.