Published: 1 years 196 days ago
With advice from government biologists, a sound education, and good dose of trial and error, Julie Nord has developed a successful and sustainable winegrape management program in Napa, California. Much of her work has focused on restoring the riparian habitat along Dry Creek, which runs adjacent to one of the vineyards she manages.
“We lost about sixty percent of the vines in this vineyard to Pierce’s Disease,” Nord said. “Lately we’ve done a lot of restoration work in the creek, replacing non-native species with native plants that are resistant to PD. We also planted redwood trees as a sort of barrier along the edge of the riparian area, and they help keep the blue-green sharpshooters in the creek, away from the vines.” Much of Nord’s restoration work, which includes planting willows to protect the creek banks from erosion, has been supported by an EQIP grant from USDA.
Nord, who has a master’s degree in soil science from Texas A&M, is a firm believer in cover crops in the vineyard. “We use nitrogen-fixing cover crops like cow peas, fava beans, vetch, and clover in areas where we need to build the nitrogen content,” she said. “We keep it mowed, but try not to disc because cultivating destroys all the microflora that’s growing in the top quarter-inch of soil, which is most important for nutrient breakdown.” She found out the hard way – by losing several vines – that she could not maintain cover crops directly under the vines due to increased vole damage. “We use herbicide under the rows now, which knocks down the weeds and discourages voles.” Owl boxes and oak trees also encourage birds that help control the rodent population.
“Another thing I focus on is the social side,” Nord added. “We have open houses in the vineyards where we encourage all our neighbors and community leaders to see what we’re doing. Napa’s ‘Afternoons in the Vineyards’ have been a big success, reaching out to about 2,000 people last year.”
Nord helped develop the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program’s workbook, which she finds very comprehensive and instructive. “Even if people improve two or three things each year, it makes a big difference over time.”