In 2020, NVG worked with a team of California soil scientists and extension agents spearheaded by Dr. Cristina Lazcano, PhD, UC Davis, to submit a 3-5 year vineyard trial project to study soil health, and the potential for carbon sequestration in Napa Valley soils. Our eventual goals include developing real metrics for what a “healthy soil” is for premium wine grapes, and as we learn, educating our members and all growers on what practices best impact soil health, carbon sequestration, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in our vineyards.
There is an increasing interest among the grape growing community to learn more about soil health and its impact on grape production, vineyard health, and ultimately wine quality. Soil health is defined as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans”. In other words, soil health is characterized by functions it provides to the vineyard and is often impacted by vineyard floor management practices. Growers face the challenge of deciding where and how to apply management practices to impactfully promote soil health due to a lack of unifying metrics for defining soil health in vineyards. Therefore, there is a unique and valuable opportunity to evaluate the variability in indicators of soil health within the context of the different soil types existing in Napa Valley.
The first step is to develop a baseline of soil health attributes with respect to current vineyard management, understand which attributes are most relevant to wine grape production, and gain insight into growers current state of knowledge and decision-making related to soil health. Focusing on Napa as an experimental area, the project proposes to:
-(i) establish a baseline of soil health indicators and disseminate information on their variability within the various Napa Valley soil types -(ii) examine grower perception and comprehension of these indicators and the desired qualities of a healthy soil relative to production goals by using a combination of social and biophysical measurements -(iii) form ‘soil health regions’ that will be integrated with guidelines to inform growers on the possible outcomes of healthy soil practices depending on the soil type.
A Special Thanks
A special thanks to Dr. Kristin Lowe, Co-Chair NVG Member Services Committee, and Dr. Cristina Lazcano for their work on the development of this timely and important research project, and to all of our NVG Grower members who have agreed to participate in the study.