In our latest podcast episode, we went underground with geologist and founder of HydroGeo Environmental, Bubba Beasley. We discussed the science of soil mapping and why soil mapping is important for vineyards, even if your vineyard is already established. He is an expert in every sense of the word when it comes to soil mapping and vineyards.
We discussed NCRS maps and how they help streamline the soil evaluation process, methods to evaluate soil, the importance of soil sampling for mineral nutrition, and more. Bubba also shared the future of soil mapping and how technology is revolutionizing this field.
Below is an overview of some of the questions asked during our conversation.
What To Look for To Help the Grower Design and Plant the Vineyard
In NRCS maps, the primary focus is on obtaining high-resolution data that is extremely useful for refining vineyard design. These maps allow growers to draw out proposed vineyard blocks or terroir zones directly on the computer. It is important to note that vineyard blocks may not always align with perfect geometric shapes, as soil variability is not always straightforward. Therefore, growers may need to make adjustments and compromises to fit the blocks appropriately. The level of detail provided by these maps is remarkable, particularly in terms of mapping geolocation.
The Impact of NRCS Maps and How They Help Streamline the Planting Process
NRCS maps provide clues about where to dig, which is essential during the initial scan of a potential vineyard. With the advancement in cell phone technology, growers can now access these maps on their phones and walk to the center of specific color zones shown on the map. This allows them to instruct the excavator to place test pits at the designated locations. The boundaries of these color zones on the map indicate the exact soil boundaries. NCRS maps make the process very efficient and effective and save growers time and money.
What Process is Used in the Developing the Soil Maps
Developing a soil map involves several steps, beginning with GIS analysis followed by on-site mapping using an electromagnetic conductivity meter. The meter measures soil electrical conductivity and is pulled behind an ATV to scan the area. The data is then converted into a color contour map, with blue meaning low conductivity and red meaning high conductivity. Although the map offers a proxy for different soil properties, it requires verification by digging test pits to ground truth the data, document measurements, and collect samples for lab analysis.
How Are Growers Using Electroconductivity Maps in Established Vineyards
Soil sampling and mapping in established vineyards offer several benefits. They are beneficial in finding problem areas, such as subsoil compaction or potential wet areas, that need to be mitigated. Soil mapping also allows the creation of terroir zones in a block. This can lead to separate sampling and comparisons of wine from different soil zones. Growers can make informed decisions and have a more successful vineyard when they use these practices.
Why Combine Data from NCRS Maps with Electroconductivity Maps
NCRS maps provide more than only help with vineyard design and planning. They are very valuable in determining soil variability and help with effective soil sampling as well. While vineyard blocks may be ideal geometric shapes, soil variability is not always as straightforward. These maps consider the soil variability and help growers create digital terroir zones. When combined with the data from electroconductivity mapping a grower can more precisely pinpoint where to sample different soil types and can reduce the number of samples collected compared to a random soil sampling procedure. With this information, growers can then accurately and efficiently sample the soil.
Adding soil sampling and mapping to your vineyard management practice is guaranteed to be a game changer to your operation. Whether you’re an educated grower with an established vineyard or just starting out, knowing what the soil is like underneath your vineyard can lead to better decision-making and a better harvest.
If you want to learn more about the science of soil mapping, check out https://www.vineyardundergroundpodcast.com/vu029.