THERE is some confusion about the terms ‘mulch’ and ‘compost’ which are often used interchangeably even though they are quite different products with different uses and potential benefits.

The Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation (GWRDC) provided funding for an information fact sheet to be compiled and extended through its ‘Regional Grassroots’ program.

This article is available as a fact sheet and can be downloaded from the Wines of Western Australia website

Mulch can be defined as material, organic or inorganic, that is used for placement on the soil surface as a protective cover.

In vineyards, mulch is generally applied beneath the vines and includes materials such as cereal straw, wood chippings, cover crop slashings and plastic film.

Organic materials are generally coarse in nature and commercially supplied products such as wood chippings may have been pasteurised to eliminate pathogenic organisms and weed seeds.

The use of mulch offers a number of potential benefits including improved soil moisture retention, weed suppression and reduced topsoil temperature variation and erosion.

Mulch is also likely to enhance the population of soil saprophytic fungi as they are the primary organisms responsible for the breakdown of high lignin material. Nutrients are imparted to the soil, albeit very gradually, as this material is broken down.

Compost is a generic term used for a product generated from the composting process.

Full story in the May 2014 issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker.