Research for the UK wine production industry, funded by DEFRA’s Farming Innovation Programme (FIP), is well underway. The two-year project will provide new information about the effect of cover cropping on soil health, grape yields, juice quality and overall sustainability. 

The aim of the research project is to increase productivity and sustainability in UK viticulture and to develop learning and outputs that can be shared with the UK wine production sector, including:  

  • Information on bespoke cover crop mixes for UK vineyards
  • Demonstration vineyard sites showing how to optimise the benefits of cover crops for grape yields and juice quality
  • Guidelines on how to improve vineyard soil health and carbon sequestration
  • Knowledge of how cover crops affect the soil microbiome and how weeding strategies affect soil stability
  • Soil water and nutrient management strategies to improve resource use efficiency in vineyards with cover crops

Almost a year into the project and the vineyard trials, at NIAB East Malling Research centre, Gusbourne and Chapel Down vineyards, are progressing well. Bespoke cover crop mixes, carefully developed with support from project partner Denne & Sons, include both perennial and annual species. 

Multi-faceted tests are being undertaken to determine the cover crop impacts including vineyard LIDAR mapping, soil and temperature monitoring, together with biological, physical and chemical  soil analyses, carried out by the Natural Resources Institute (University of Greenwich) and NIAB. The juice, grapes and wine from the trial will also be analysed at NIAB East Malling’s new Wine Innovation Centre.

If you would like to follow the progress of the project, Vinescapes as project partners, have a dedicated website page where project updates will be shared, including plans for output dissemination to the sector. Please visit the Vinescapes website or email for more information.