Minimum tillage in Mediterranean vineyards [Portugal]

Minimum tillage

technologies_2879 - Portugal

Completeness: 86%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

land user:
SLM specialist:

Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Interactive Soil Quality assessment in Europe and China for Agricultural productivity and Environmental Resilience (EU-iSQAPER)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Centro de Estudos de Rescursos Naturais, Ambiente e Sociedade (CERNAS) - Portugal

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Minimum tillage in vineyards is performed in alternated inter-row zone, to promote soil decompation and maintain partial vegetation cover.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Portugal is one of the larger wine producers in Europe, with vineyard area covering 27% of permanent crops. Vineyards play an important role in the Portuguese economy, not only due to the impact of wine industry but also the important cultural heritage and great influence on tourism sector. There are thirteen specialized wine regions in the country, from which we highlight Bairrada region, located in central mainland, where minimum tillage is becoming popular. Bairrada has a Mediterranean climate, characterized by a long dry summer, although the strong influence of the Atlantic Ocean. Vineyard is the most relevant crop in Bairrada. In this region, farmland is mostly cultivated by landowners, comprising small winegrowers (5-10ha), most of them members of local farmers associations, as well as large producers (100-500ha) with a relevant position in the world wine market.
In vineyards, tillage is performed to promote de-compaction of the typical medium/fine soils and weeds control. In Bairrada wine region, soil tillage is usually performed twice per year – in autumn and spring, depending on weather conditions. Tillage is performed with a ripper and disc arrow (10-15cm), since mechanized vineyards require vines arranged according to horizontal wire bundles. However, tillage activities favour soil degradation, namely due to soil erosion and increasing mineralization of organic matter. In order to mitigate land degradation, minimum tillage of inter-row zone was adopted. No tillage is not applied by the farmers due to the need to de-compact the soil, favoured by the relatively high clay content. The minimum tillage is performed in alternated inter-rows, to keep vegetation cover in part of the vineyard. Tillage inter-row switch every time, so that each inter-row is not tilled more than once per year. Weeds control in the non-tilled inter-rows is performed using a rotary brush mower. In the plant zone, weeds are controlled with herbicides, applied twice per year: autumn-winter (before vine plant winding) and spring-summer (during vegetative growth). During the hot dry summer, weeds are naturally controlled due to water-stress. Mechanical intervention is also performed for pest and disease control, generally applied as preventive measures. Phytosanitary treatments are performed upon receipt of notices from Regional Directorate of Agriculture or technicians from local farmers association. These notices also include recommendations about the type of products and the application rate. In the majority of the Region, pruning and harvesting is performed manually. Pruning residues are typically mowed and left at the soil surface.
The adoption of minimum tillage was triggered by governmental subsidies. Farmers recognize the impact of this technology on the environment, namely on preventing soil degradation and enhancing biodiversity. However, soil compaction and water competition between vegetation cover and vines (over the summer) are major concerns.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Bairrada, Central Region

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 100-1,000 km2

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

  • motivated by financial support from the government
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Technical recommendations provided by technicians of farmers associations.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Tree and shrub cropping
Tree and shrub cropping - Specify crops:
  • grapes
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

One harvesting per year


Main crops (cash and food crops): Vineyard

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • minimal soil disturbance

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
  • A3: Soil surface treatment
A3: Differentiate tillage systems:

A 3.2: Reduced tillage (> 30% soil cover)

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
physical soil deterioration

physical soil deterioration

  • Pc: compaction

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Minimum tillage in vineyards is performed in the inter-row zone, in alternated lines switching between chiselling activities (10-15cm), usually performed in autumn and spring. There is no specific technical recommendations.
Vines are disposed horizontally, supported by wire or cord sustained by wood or metal support. Planting compass varies with soil fertility, type of wine, as well as expected quantity and quality of production, and desired height of the edges. Typically, distance between vine plants within each row ranges from 1m to 2m, and the inter-rows distance from 2.5m to 3.0m, leading to densities of 1000-3000 vines/ha. Generally vineyards are installed on natural surface profile for slopes lower than 30%, and in terraces for hillslopes of 30-50%. Vine plantation is forbidden for slopes greater than 50%.


Carla Ferreira



4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:

1 ha per year

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Chiselling of alternated inter-row zone Autumn/Spring
2. Mechanical weeds control in alternated inter-row Autumn/Spring
3. Chemical control of weeds in plant zone Autumn-Winter and Spring-Summer

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Equipment Chisel Equipment 1.0 1000.0 1000.0 100.0
Equipment Rotary brush mower Equipment 1.0 1600.0 1600.0 100.0
Equipment Sprayer Equipment 1.0 2500.0 2500.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 5100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 5888.13
If land user bore less than 100% of costs, indicate who covered the remaining costs:

Young farmers (<40 years old) may submit agricultural projects for partial government funding.


The costs provided do not include the tractor aquisition costs.

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Weeds control with herbicides (in vine rows) Autumn-Winter and Spring-Summer
2. Mechanical weeds control (inter-row) Autumn/Spring
3. Chiselling (inter-row) Autumn/Spring

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour For chiselling activities Person-days 1.0 30.0 30.0 100.0
Labour For mechanical weed control Person-days 1.0 30.0 30.0 100.0
Labour For spraying of herbicides Person-days 1.0 30.0 30.0 100.0
Equipment Tractor with chisel 2.0 100.0 200.0 100.0
Equipment Tractor with rotary brush mower 2.0 145.0 290.0 100.0
Equipment Tractor with spraying system 1.0 150.0 150.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides Herbicides Litres 6.0 12.0 72.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 802.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 925.94

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Machinery and labor

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

The climate is Mediterranean but with a significant influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The dry season extends from July to September and the rainiest period extends from November to February.

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:

10G/01UG from the Sistema Nacional de Informação de Recursos Hídricos

Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

Csb according with Köppen climatic classification.

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Óis do Bairro: 5%; São Lourenço: 10%; Estação Vitivinícola: 9%; Quinta do Valdoeiro: 10%; Pocariça: 14%. Altitude ranges from 25m to 55 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
  • low (<1%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:

poor/ none

Water quality (untreated):

for agricultural use only (irrigation)

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?


5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low
Habitat diversity:
  • low
Comments and further specifications on biodiversity:

There is a lack of studies regarding biodiversity.

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • mixed (subsistence/ commercial)
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
  • > 50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
  • rich
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
  • cooperative
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged
  • elderly
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Some of the farmers belong to large wine companies, which export the wine to several countries

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale
  • large-scale

The area of land varies a lot. Individual farmers can have vineyards from 2-15ha, whereas large wine companies own up to 400 ha of vineyards in Bairrada region.

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • company
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • open access (unorganized)

The state also own some vineyards devoted to research.

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


land management

Comments/ specify:

There are no measurements.

Water availability and quality

irrigation water quality

Comments/ specify:

Although there are no measurements, it is expected less sediment and nutrient export (linked to decreasing runoff), thus less impacts on aquatic ecossystems.

Income and costs


Comments/ specify:

Associated with decreasing chiseling activities

Socio-cultural impacts

recreational opportunities

Comments/ specify:

Vineyards are relevant for tourism, thus, their sustainability is relevant.

SLM/ land degradation knowledge

Comments/ specify:

Farmers associations provide knowladge and trainning to farmers.

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity

Comments/ specify:

Not measured, but available water in the water cycle is expected.

water quality

Comments/ specify:

There is no data, but decreasing runoff will contribute for lower sediment and nutrient exports, thus, improving water quality.

surface runoff


soil moisture

Comments/ specify:

There are no measurements, but field studies performed elsewhere report increasing soil moisture due to vegetation cover.

soil cover

Comments/ specify:

Maintenance of vegetation cover in half of the vineyard inter-rows. However, vegetation cover is limited during dry periods.

soil loss

Comments/ specify:

Based on bibliography.

soil compaction

Comments/ specify:

Although there are no measurements, farmers report that ploughing activities are relevant to reduce soil compaction.

soil organic matter/ below ground C

Comments/ specify:

According with literature review, minimum tillage decrease the mineralization of organic matter.

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover

Comments/ specify:

Not measured.

beneficial species

Comments/ specify:

Not measured, but expected given the partia maintenance of vegetation cover.

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

downstream flooding

Comments/ specify:

Decreasing runoff will contribute for decreasing downstream flooding

downstream siltation

Comments/ specify:

Less runoff and erosion will decrease downstream siltation.

groundwater/ river pollution

Comments/ specify:

Less runoff will provide lower sediment and nutrient exports to rivers.

impact of greenhouse gases

Comments/ specify:

Lower tractor activities contribute for less greenhouse gases emission.

Specify assessment of off-site impacts (measurements):

The impacts have not been measured. The response is based on literature review and field observations.

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)


The technology does not have an impact on climate related issues.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly positive

Long-term returns:

slightly positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 11-50%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 0-10%

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Less herbicides and ploughing decreases maintenance costs.
It allows to reduce herbicide application to control weeds, thus favouring biodiversity.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Minimum tillage is best suited for heavy, compacted and/or poorly drained soils, typical of vineyards.
It reduces land degradation, by improving soil structure and vegetation cover, important to reduce soil erosion.
Improving soil cover will improve soil moisture and aeration conditions, relevant for crop development and soil biodiversity.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Soil compaction due to lower ploughing Improve soil structure
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Difficulty to maintain inter-row vegetation cover during the dry season Replace vegetation cover by other materials (e.g. mulching)

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys

More than 10 field visits were performed over a three month period.

  • interviews with land users


  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts


  • compilation from reports and other existing documentation


When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:

Biddoccu, M., Ferraris, S., Pitacco, A., Cavallo, E. (2017). Temporal variability of soil management effects on soil hydrological properties, runoff and erosion at the field scale in a hillslope vineyard, North-West Italy. Soil & Tillage Research 165, 46–58.


Title/ description:

Byrne, S., Guire, L.M. (2005) Vineyard Floor Management. Final report to Grape and Wine Research & Development Corporation (RT 04/03-1)


Title/ description:

Cruz, A., Botelho, M., Silvestre, J., Castro R. (2012) Soil management: Introduction of tillage in a vineyard with a long-term natural cover. Journal of Viticulture and Enology 27(1), 27-38.


Title/ description:

Napoli, M., Marta, A.D., Zanchi, C.A., Orlandini, S. (2017). Assessment of soil and nutrient losses by runoff under different soil management practices in an Italian hilly vineyard. Soil & Tillage Research 168, 71–80.


Title/ description:

Puig-Montserrat, X., Stefanescu, C., Torre, I., Palet, J., Fàbregas, E., Dantart, J., Arrizabalaga, A., Flaquer, C. (2017). Effects of organic and conventional crop management on vineyard biodiversity. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 243, 19–26.


Title/ description:

Raclot, D., Bissonnais, Y.L., Louchart, X., Andrieux, P., Moussa, R., Volts, M. (2009). Soil tillage and scale effects on erosion from fields to catchment in a Mediterranean vineyard area. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 134, 201–210.


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