Vetiver System and its application in a Tuscany (Italy) Vineyard

Andrea and Valentina Rossi have been using vetiver to protect their Tuscany vineyard located in Massa Carrara (approx. 44ºN 10ºE) since 2010, and have sent the following note that should be of interest to grape growers.  They can be contacted at: [email protected]

“In 2010 our vineyard in Massa Carrara was subjected to landslides so we decided to protect the terraces against slippage and erosion using the Vetiver System. See photos of this work. Since applying VS we have found that apart from slope stabilization and erosion control there have been other benefits:

  • 11 % increase in grape weight (juiciness) for grapes grown on vetiver protected land, 20 kg per box, compared to 18 kg per box on the unprotected land (both areas having the same exposure to the sun). This increase is most likely due be due to improved soil moisture, organic matter, and soil organisms (biota), particularly on the steep slopes with shallow soils.
  • 50% reduction in pesticide and fungicide applications.  Without vetiver applications were necessary every 15 – 20 days, with vetiver application intervals were increased to 30 days or more without negative impact on the crop.
  • 100% reduction in weeding intervals – as a result of using vetiver leaves as mulch we have reduced weeding (grass cutting) from 10 day to 20 – 25 day intervals. The mulch is good for 70-90 days.”

Some other observations:

Grapes are susceptible to nematodes. Vetiver is resistant to all root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne sp).  This resistance is suspected as also being a deterrent to infection of neighboring crops.  In Ethiopia and Senegal peppers and bananas grown in association with vetiver, and where nematodes were known to effect crop yield, both showed improved yields.

If grapes are grown on soils that have hardpans the vetiver hedgerows will punch through the hardpans and improve drainage.  You may not know that the mature root system of a vetiver hedgerow can be likened an ideal sand filter with 1 mm pore space.

Dick Grimshaw