Flail mowing

March 23, 2012




Budbreak is right around the corner for most of our blocks here on the property, so we’re taking advantage of a break in the weather to go ahead and start flail mowing our cover crops. It’s a good idea to get flail mowing done before budbreak if you can, because taking a tractor down the vineyard rows when the shoots are very small can cause ‘tractor blight’, which is to say that the tractor can knock the young shoots off the vine if you’re not careful. We would have liked to start this process a little bit earlier in the month, but the recent rains left our vineyard rows too soft to get the tractor through without it getting bogged down.

Flail mowing a cover crop is not entirely dissimilar from mowing a lawn. The first step is to secure the mowing attachment to the back of the tractor.

If you look carefully, you can see where the tractors' hydraulics link into this attachment, allowing us to lower it to whatever height we want, and shift it from side to side as needed.

The flail mower gets it’s name from the blades it uses to cut vegetation.

These blades are set on hinges that let them swing as the axle they are attached to rotates. This allows them to 'flail', or gather more speed as they approach the vegetation to make a more effective cut.

There are several reasons to flail mow a cover crop. One is to reduce competition for the vines; during the early stages of shoot growth we like to make sure that there is nothing (like the roots of the cover crop) restricting the vines’ access to water. This is especially important in organic vineyards like ours, in which the vines tend to have very loose, spread-out networks of roots. Another reason for flail mowing is to provide nutrients for the vines; as the mowed cover crops decompose they will slowly release nutrients into the root zone of the vines that will help them to grow more healthily. This form of fertilization of the soil is one of the reasons that organic vines tend to have such spread-out networks of roots, the nutrients are not concentrated at the base of the vine (as they tend to be when commercial fertilizers are applied) and so the roots have to quest outward from the plant to find what they need.

As you can see, the flail mower makes short work of the cover crops. The pulverized vegetation left behind is called 'green manure'.

Flail mowing pretty drastically changes the appearance of the vineyard.

Here is a picture of Montana Vista taken yesterday.

Here is a picture taken today from the same spot. As you can see, the volume of vegetation is much less after it has been mowed.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.


One Response to “Flail mowing”

  1. Lucie Demers said

    So informative. Keep up this interesting work.

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