Cover Crop and Signs of Spring

In the vineyard, 2016 has been a fascinating year to date:  January began with a number of rain showers, leaving the vineyard greener by far than 2015 and 2014.

Pruning Comparison.2

February, by contrast, was one of the warmest and driest. As a result, the estate mustard bloomed early in much of the vineyard, and we’re anticipating signs of budbreak in the next few weeks.

There are numerous types of cover crop growing between vine rows across wine country, but one of the most visually stunning and iconic is the mustard plant.


Mustard cover crop serves three purposes in the vineyard: first, the plantings prevent erosion – a precaution especially necessary with the rain we have experienced.

Second, mustard contains a compound that suppresses the population of nematodes – a microscopic worm that can damage vines.

“Researchers have observed that brassicas (e.g., rapeseed, mustard) have a nematode-supressive effect that benefits the following crop in a rotation. This “mustard effect” is attributed to glucosinolate compounds contained in brassica residues. Toxicity is attributed to enzymatically induced breakdown products of glucosinolates, a large class of compounds known as isothiocyanates and nitriles that suppress nematodes by interfering with their reproductive cycle.”

-ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture (“Nematodes: Alternative Controls”)

And thirdly, mustard adds nutrients to the vines; specifically, the plants capture nitrogen from the air and convert it into proteins, which are then worked into the soil when the mustard is mowed or disced.


We are so grateful for this natural way of promoting vine health – and it’s an added bonus that the mustard plants are so beautiful, a lovely sign of late winter and spring to come.


Ram’s Gate Winery

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