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 commerci
l 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.