Monterey County

Vineyards weather drought through cover cropping technique

Sustainable technique helps vineyards irriagte less during state drought

You may not see water falling from the sky at De Tierra Vineyards but the vines are getting water.

"We farm with a lot of cover crop, which allows the soil to retain any of the precipitation that is in the air, even if it's not actually raining, so we are retaining a lot of that water and it allows us to not have to irrigate as often," said De Tierra Vineyards general manager Anna Russel.

Russel said the vines still need water during their dormant season. Techniques like cover cropping year-round helps weather the droughts.

"A lot of people focus on the water usage during the actual bud break and producing the grapes, because the grapes swell as you irrigate more and it's just a very direct correlation, but both them focus on the fact that you are preparing the vine," said Russel.

More and more vineyards are taking this approach, which helps the vine grow deeper roots in the ground to find water farther down.

"When you have enough moisture in the area as we do with the coastal influence, you are able to use those techniques and they are more effective as well," said Russel.

Russell said keeping an eye on water usage now can prevent big problems when the vines need the water most.

There are at least ten vineyards in Monterey County that use the technique and are certified "Sustainable in Practice."

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