Viticulture and Oenology research

Cover crop growing between vines in the experimental vineyard at NIAB East Malling

Early plantings have demonstrated the performance of a range of varieties on different rootstocks and using different training systems, and a spur and cane pruning trial is now underway for Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Bacchus supported by WineGB and The Vintners Company.

Our research vineyard includes varieties such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Bacchus, Divico and Pinot Blanc. Climate change varieties have also been assessed including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Merlot, Chasselas, Gamay and Vlognier. Rootstocks assessed are 3309C, S04, 5BB and 101.14. The new Wine Innovation Centre facilities now allow us to carry out replicated winemaking using grapes from vineyard projects as well as in-depth wine science studies.

NIAB has also been able to stage machinery demonstrations including methods of mechanical weed control and this has been employed in a European-funded research project (IWMPRAISE) to compare the efficacy of mechanical weed control with conventional herbicide treatments.

Both mechanical weeding methods assessed were as effective as  herbicide treatments in terms of vine vigour and yield and did not result in losses in berry yield or quality. Interestingly, the control vines (no weed control) were chlorotic, nutrient deficient and produced only one third of the yield recorded for the weeded vines.

New research project - Improving vineyard soil health through groundcover management

NIAB soil scientists at East Malling are increasingly aware that poor soil health can give rise to inconsistent yields and juice quality in vine growing, which can lead to costly interventions in the vineyard and winery. Working with Chapel Down and Gusbourne and an industry consortium, earlier this year they successfully secured grant funding from Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme (FIP) to investigate the potential impact of groundcover management practices on soil health, yields, juice quality and emissions. It will also lead to grower guidance on bespoke cover crop mixes to alleviate soil compaction, improve soil nutrition and control nematodes. Guidelines to support transition towards net-zero carbon emissions will be drawn up alongside this.

For more information on viticulture and oenology at NIAB, please contact Belinda Kemp.

Viticulture at East Malling Viticulture partners