Published: 1 years 196 days ago
One of the challenges of growing winegrapes in the Sacramento Delta is a high water table and uneven distribution of water through the fields. Ken Wilson, who farms adjacent to the Sacramento River and Elk Slough, uses drainage tiles and cover crops to cope with local water woes.
“When we first started growing winegrapes here, we noticed that some areas would pick up more moisture and grow more vigorously than we’d like,” Wilson explained. “Planting cover crops absorbed some of the moisture to slow the vines down. Sometimes we’ll stop water on part of the row while the rest is irrigated. We have to be very meticulous.” Wilson, a third-generation farmer in Clarksburg, began farming winegrapes for his father in 1972 as part of diversified operation that included a variety of row crops.
Cover crops not only help manage water availability to the vines, but they can minimize erosion, as well. While most of Wilson’s winegrape ground is level, he finds that erosion could be problematic at the headlands all around his ranch.
Sustainable practices are becoming an important part of Wilson’s operation, including the use of pheromones for pest control and reliance on softer chemicals. “We’re pulling leaves and thinning shoots to open the canopy for fungus control,” he added.
Wilson pointed out several boxes mounted to enormous oak trees lining the levee that separates Elk Slough from his vineyard. “We invited the Boy Scout troop to put up woodduck boxes around the ranch, and we’ve also put up some owl boxes and perches for predatory birds.”
“Growing winegrapes is a challenge,” he reflected, “but so far it’s worked out pretty well. It requires constant monitoring.”