New Zealand vineyards benefit from hemp plants improving wine quality and soil, reveals study

Study reveals hemp plants improve wine quality and soil in New Zealand vineyards

Research conducted in New Zealand has shown that wine produced from grapes co-planted with hemp demonstrates improved quality. Additionally, the presence of hemp plants has been found to enhance the soil in vineyards. The study, conducted over a period of three years by vintner Kirsty Harkness and viticulture researcher Mark Krasnow, suggests that hemp can serve as a viable cover crop for New Zealand vineyards by alleviating soil compaction and adding organic matter to the soil.

Hemp also offers the potential for a second income stream for growers in the wine industry, as it can be harvested before the grapes. The research paper highlights these benefits.

Failure of other co-crops

The study, conducted in the Marlborough Wine Region, reveals that hemp successfully took root in Sauvignon Blanc vineyards without the need for watering, unlike other cover crops that failed to grow. The Marlborough Wine Region is located in the north of the South Island of New Zealand.

The study suggests that this allowed the hemp to continue growing and sequestering carbon for a longer period throughout the season. The hemp plants were able to grow in tractor wheel tracks, thanks to their deep tap roots that reduce soil compaction – a significant issue in vineyards. Soil compaction can harm the roots of the grapevines by “suffocating” them.

Kirsty Harkness expressed her excitement, stating, “The fact that hemp has not competed with vines, but has had a positive influence on soils and wines is very exciting.” She further noted that juice from grapes grown adjacent to hemp plants had a higher population of native yeasts and produced higher quality wine compared to grapes grown separately from hemp plantings. Harkness shared these insights with New Zealand Wine Grower, the magazine of the New Zealand Wine Growers Association.

Long-term benefits

The research also revealed that the vineyard soils were richer in organic matter and total carbon, which is beneficial for the long-term health and fertility of the soil. The study emphasizes that these differences were particularly significant at a depth of 40-80cm, suggesting that hemp allows for greater carbon sequestration compared to other cover crops.

Mark Krasnow proposed that combining hemp with other cover crops, such as clover for nitrogen and buckwheat for beneficial insects, could help vineyards produce better grapes with fewer inputs while also sequestering carbon. Ultimately, a mixed turf cover including hemp has the potential to improve grape quality, save water, be bee-friendly, use less diesel, and reduce overall costs.

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