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Catch-crops And Cover-crops

A catch-crop is one grown between the rows of another crop for profit
from the produce. A cover-crop is a temporary crop grown, as the term
was first used, to protect the soil, but the word is now used to
include green-manuring crops as well. Catch-crops seldom have a place
in most vineyards, but cover-crops are often grown.


Catch-crops are not, as a rule, profitable in commercial vineyards;
they may bring temporary profit but in the long run they are usually
detrimental to the vines. It may pay and the grape may not be injured
in some localities, if such truck crops as potatoes, beans, tomatoes
and cabbage are grown between the rows or even in the rows for the
first year and possibly the second. Land, to do duty by the two crops,
however, must be excellent and the care of both crops must be of the
best. Growing gooseberries, currants, any of the brambles, or even
strawberries, is a poor procedure unless the vineyard is small, the
land very valuable or other conditions prevail which make intensive
culture possible or necessary. The objections to catch-crops in the
vineyard are two: they rob the vines of food and moisture and endanger
them to injury from tools in caring for the catch-crop.

Sometimes the grape itself is planted as a catch-crop in the vineyard.
That is, twice the number of vines required in a row for the permanent
vineyard are set with the expectation of cutting out alternate vines
when two or three crops have been harvested and the vines begin to
crowd. This practice is preferable to inter-planting with bush-fruits,
yet there is not much to commend it if the experience of those who
have tried it is taken as a guide. Too often the filler vines are left
a year too long with the result that the permanent vines are checked
in growth for several years following. The profits from the fillers
are never large, scarcely pay for the extra work, and if the permanent
vines are stunted, the filler must be put down as a liability rather
than as an asset.


In an experiment being conducted by the New York Agricultural
Experiment Station, grapes do not give a very appreciable response to
cover-crops in yield of fruit or growth of vine.[9] There seem to be
no other experiments to confirm the results at the New York Station,
and grape-growers nowhere have used cover-crops very generally for the
betterment of their vineyards. There is doubt, therefore, as to
whether grapes will respond profitably to the annual use of
cover-crops in yield of fruit, which, of course, is the ultimate test
of the value of cover-crops, but a test hard to apply unless the
experiment runs a great number of years.

Leaving out the doubtful value of cover-crops in increasing the supply
of plant-food and thereby producing an increase in yield, there are at
least three ways in which cover-crops are valuable in the vineyard.
Thus, it is patent to all who have tried cover-crops in the vineyard
that the land is in much better tilth and more easily worked when some
green crop is turned under in fall or spring; it is not unreasonable
to assume, though it is impossible to secure reliable experimental
data to confirm the belief, that cover-crops protect the roots of
grapes from winter-killing; certainly it may be expected that a
cover-crop sowed in midsummer will cause grapes to mature their wood
earlier and more thoroughly so that the vines go into the winter in
better condition. The only objection to be raised against cover-crops
in the vineyard is that pickers, mostly women, object to the
cover-crop when wet with rain or dew and usually choose to pick in
vineyards having no such crop. This seemingly insignificant factor
often gives the grape-grower who sows cover-crops much trouble in
harvest time.

Several cover-crops may be planted in vineyards as clover, vetch,
oats, barley, cow-horn turnip, rape, rye and buckwheat. Combinations
of these usually make the seed too costly or the trouble of sowing too
great. Yet some combinations of a leguminous and non-leguminous crop
would seem to make the best green crop for the grape. Thus, a bushel
of oats or barley plus ten pounds of clover or twenty pounds of winter
vetch, a combination often used in orchards, should prove satisfactory
in the vineyard. Or, doubling the amount of seed for each, these crops
could be alternated, with a change in the rotation every four or six
years, with cow-horn turnip or rape. Turnip and rape require at least
three pounds of seed to the acre.

The cover-crop is sown in midsummer, about the first of August in
northern latitudes, and should be plowed under in the fall or early
spring. Under no circumstances should the green crop be permitted to
stand in the vineyard late in the spring to rob the vines of food and
moisture. The weather map must be watched at sowing time to make sure
of a moist seed-bed. Plate III illustrates two vineyards with
well-grown cover-crops.

Next: Tillage

Previous: Care Of Young Vines

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