Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Category: CASE Studentships

Influence of undervine management for weed suppression in UK vineyards on bud viability, yield, soil, and grape and wine composition.

Project No. 2436


Primary Supervisor

Dr Belinda Kemp – NIAB East Malling


Dr Helen Cockerton – University of Kent

Dr Flora O’Brian – NIAB East Malling

Vinescapes Ltd (CASE Partner)


Cultivating undervine crops is a sustainable means to manage vineyard weeds, in contrast to herbicides or tilling

The latter contributes to soil compaction from tractors. UK vineyard research priorities include the development of a multiyear, multidisciplinary study that uses a mechanistic, sustainable approach to link under vine weed and soil management practices to bud responses, and grape and wine composition. Research has shown a reduction in soil temperature from under vine crops, which limits productivity of grapevines as early spring frosts lead to bud damage. Genetic control of bud viability from frost damage is largely undiscovered in grapevines, so this project will also allow for the identification of genes involved in frost damage in grapevine buds.

Vineyard sites with contrasting soils will be used to establish replicated treatments for 3 years in a split plot experimental design. Under vine treatments will be chosen by the participating vineyards in collaboration with the PhD student and supervisors. Data collection will include soil moisture, carbon sequestration levels, soil organic matter levels, and weed suppression indices. Grape phenological data, bud dissection for RNA seq analysis to study the relative gene expression in buds before and after frost, and standard analysis of juice and wine will be undertaken.

Under vine management and bud viability could have significant implications for vines during a cold winter due to weather variability from climate change. Under vine techniques may have differing impacts on yield, fruit composition, bud damage and winery revenue. This research will provide scientific evidence for a sustainable vineyard practise to reduce vineyard costs without impacting yields and grape quality. This project would suit a student with a viticulture or plant biology background, a keen interest in sustainable grape production in the UK, and analytical laboratory experience although full training will be provided.

4. Any candidate qualities that would be particularly suitable for this project:This project would suit a student with a viticulture or a plant biology background, an interest in sustainable grape production in the UK, and strong analytical laboratory experience.