Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cut the mustard.

If indeed the mustard in the vineyards of northern California was first sown by Franciscan monks more than 200 years ago, it is one of the most enduring cover crop success stories ever, at least in the Napa Valley. Due to the unusually warm January we experienced, (and the high 60's low 70's temps we have now), the field mustard (Brassica campestris) is out in full force. It looks beautiful, contrasted against the the still dormant, skeletal looking vines. So beautiful in fact that it inspired a whole festival dedicated just to it. The Napa Valley Mustard Festival, in it's 16th year, attracts the well heeled of the valley's society doyens...the rest of us just live and work here. Ho hum.
There are far superior choices of cover crops that could be planted in the vineyard. Brassicas in general can prove to be a little problematic. For instance, B. campestris, can attract green peach aphids (Myzus persiae) that build up on the mustard during winter and early spring. Although these aphids do not affect vineyards, they may disperse and carry diseases to other crops. Not good. So vineyard managers, cut the mustard, sew some subterranean clovers to smother it out...and let the hoity toity find another weed to celebrate instead.

3 comments:

monkey said...

good to see you back Vinogorl, im sure the young Aprrentice is there now awaiting sniff some of the wines from this summer. That goes for Thud too, dont drink it all now.

Vinomaker said...

The history of this plant supposedly dates back to the 1800s when Father Junipero Serra traveled from San Diego to Sonoma exploring areas for new missions. On his way north, he scattered Spanish Mustard seeds along the trail. When he returned the following spring he found a ribbon of yellow mustard flowers guiding him back to the boarder. I guess he wasn't too concerned about aphids in those days.

Craig Justice said...

Our cover crop looks like turnips -- which attracts gophers, I suppose. The good news is that when I set gopher traps, I have plenty of "turnip weeds" to use as bait!