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Disentangling the carbon budget of a vineyard: The role of soil management

Tezza, Luca, Vendrame, Nadia, Pitacco, Andrea
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.272 pp. 52-62
automation, autumn, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide production, carbon sequestration, cover crops, ecosystems, eddy covariance, environmental sustainability, global carbon budget, grasses, grasslands, net ecosystem exchange, ripping, soil carbon, soil permeability, soil respiration, spring, summer, vines, vineyards, viticulture, Italy
The environmental sustainability of viticulture can be enhanced with the application of conservative management practices (e.g. resident vegetation or cover crop on the inter-row), which can lead to an increase of soil carbon (C) sequestration. However, studies disentangling the vineyard C budget are still very scarce. In this context, comparing vineyard net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE) with soil fluxes is especially useful. From January 2015 to August 2016, we continuously monitored vineyard NEE with the eddy covariance method and ground CO2 fluxes with an automated chamber system in a commercial vineyard in North Eastern Italy. At the site, inter-rows are covered with resident herbaceous vegetation, however, due to low soil permeability, soil cultivation (ripping or tillage) was performed on alternate alleys in autumn and, sometimes, spring in order to improve water infiltration. Measured annual soil respiration was comparable, but lower, to values estimated by previous studies in vineyards and the net uptake of the grass cover laid in the middle of yearly C budget range reported in the literature for grasslands. At the end of the measurement period, the vineyard ecosystem showed to be a net sink of CO2, absorbing around −233 gC m−2. However, the C sequestration could have been much greater if no soil cultivation had been applied. Indeed, the ground compartment was a source of CO2, but without inter-row cultivation it could have been a net sink, with an overall vineyard C budget of about −421 gC m−2. This confirms that grass cover of the inter-rows can play an important role in the C budget of woody crops. Additionally, the pattern of C fluxes reveals that the activity of herbaceous vegetation in summer decreased well before vines, thus reducing water competition during dry periods. These results provide important information for the tuning of management practices aimed at improving the environmental sustainability of viticulture.