When you plant a vineyard, you look for the right kind of soils. But then, in planting and cultivating that land, you change the microbial life of that soil. So says a new study from University of British Columbia soil scientist Miranda Hart published in Applied Soil Ecology. Hart is associate professor of biology at UBC.
Her study looked at three communities: bacteria, fungi and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.
The three year research project found that bacteria increased in vineyards, stimulated by changes in soil pH. Fungi decreased in response to the lack of biodiversity. Mycorrhizal fungi populations in vineyards were smaller compared uncultivated areas.
Hart's been studying "wild soils" deep in the British Columbia forests for decades. She's begun to work with grape growers in the region, where vineyards are rapidly expanding.
As climate change threatens to warm the North Coast of California and the Willamette Valley of Oregon, many look to British Columbia for the future. In addition, vineyards are proving to be an economic plus for rural BC.
In the span of 25 years, British Columbia has gone from 1,476 acres of vines to 10,260, according to the British Columbia Wine Institute. By comparison, Oregon has 20,000 acres in vines. So BC is now about half the size of Oregon's wine industry in terms of land impact. The region grew from 17 wineries in 1990 to 257 this year.
Hart's concerned about the use of chemicals in vineyards. Farmers have been adding exotic microbes to enhance the soils; these exotic microbes are simply doing what the original soil microbes did.
You can read more about her latest research here.