Cultivation is the traditional method of weed control (‘quatre façons’):

  • Autumn (after harvest): soil is ridged up under row with vineyard plough max 20 cm in depth, creating a middle furrow.
  • Spring (when soil is dry enough): de-ridging with shares pointing inwards & inter-row shares (finished off manually)
  • Can be repeated twice during summer or replaced by other tools such as harrows (spring tines, discs, duck’s feet) or powered implements (rotary cultivators, power harrows), inter-row weeders

In order to preserve its structure, soil must be cultivated as little as possible and never when wet. It is best to cultivate when vine roots are active (6 leaves apparent) so that they can take up released nitrates.

Advantages & disadvantages of cultivation

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Very effective weed control
  • More efficient use of fertilisers
  • Decreases disease risk due to burying of trash and reducing puddling
  • Decreases soil compaction
  • Increases rain penetration, thus reducing runoff and erosion
  • Increases soil evaporation in damp climates, decreases it when dry
  • Brings stones to the surface
  • Encourages root vigour and deep root development
  • Protection of trunks against winter cold
  • Aesthetic
  • Ecologically sound
  • Short weed suppression period as increases weed germination and propagates some plants by root sectioning
  • Risk of breakdown of soil structure due to increase in breakdown of organic matter. Need to replace OM
  • Risk of cultivation pans
  • Reduces accessibility of the land to machinery and hampers pedestrian operators
  • Increases nitrogen leaching
  • Increase in spread of soil borne diseases such as viruses
  • Increased % of plant death
  • Increased frost risk if carried out around budburst
  • Increases risk of chlorosis in chalky soils
  • Costly in equipment and manpower and requires skill
  • Impractical in very shallow or stony soils

In conclusion, a traditional method that works well, but is regarded as uneconomic, except in dry climates where the weed pressure is low. Is often used for young plants as it favours vigorous, deep root development. Cultivation is g enerally in decline, but may be making a comeback as ecologically sound.