Non-chemical weed management

Herbicides have been widely used in horticulture since the first modern herbicide, 2,4-D, was commercially released in 1946. However, increasing concerns about chemical safety, herbicide resistance, soil health and consumer perceptions have directed many growers towards alternative methods of weed control. Given the array of weeds found in Australian vineyards, combined with site and seasonal variability, there is no ‘one size fits all’ weed control solution. A variety of different non-chemical weed control tools are being used by many wine-grape growers across Australia, with most using a combination of tools to achieve the best results.

The AWRI, with funding assistance from Landcare Australia, has developed a range of resources, including a decision tool, to help growers make decisions about which non-chemical weed control options are best suited to their vineyard environment and to develop a weed management plan for effective non-chemical weed control. The intention of the decision tool is to provide growers with information to help narrow down the list of options they could consider, rather than provide them with a single recommendation. Factors such as soil type and condition, slope, rainfall, and water availability, weed pressure, vine age, vine vigour, fruit end-use targets, weather conditions and compatibility with existing infrastructure and equipment should all be considered.



Non-chemical undervine weed management options

The most common non-chemical undervine weed management tools used in Australian vineyards are listed below.

Cultivation tools No-till tools
Finger weeder Mower/whipper snipper
Knife weeder Sweeper
Disc plough and rotary tiller Straw mulch
Dodge plough Sheep grazing
Powered rotary tiller Sown undervine cover crops
Volunteer undervine swards

Each weed management option has advantages and disadvantages in reducing weeds, including suitability in young versus established vineyards, impact on soil, duration of the weed control achieved, operating speed, operating cost and capital outlay required. A summary of the advantages and disadvantages of different tools is available to help support decision-making. In addition, cultivation, no-till weed control tools and cover crops all behave differently on different types of soils, with some tools better suited than others to different soil types. A summary of the suitability of different weed control tools for difference soils is also available.

Weed control case studies

Handpicked Wines


Vasse Felix

Other resources

Controlling undervine couch and kikuyu in vineyards without herbicides (AWRI Technical Review article)

Non-chemical weed control (AWRI webinar recording 2 September 2021)

History and recent developments in undervine weed control (article published in Aust. & N.Z. Grapegrower & Winemaker, October 2022)