Common vetch, annual legume used as a cover crop (annually tilled and seeded) in vineyards because it contributes organic matter and nitrogen to the soil.

Other names | Vicia sativa (Botanical). | Oregon vetch. | Spring vetch.

As a cover crop | Vetch is usually sown in autumn as part of a mix, with cereals like oats or rye onto and up which the vetch climbs, vetch being a climbing legume. Sow one part vetch for five parts cereal. The vetch remains dormant throughout much of winter, developing nearly all its biomass in spring (March and April in the northern hemisphere). The timing of this means it is not the best choice for vineyards that will be disked in March.

Pros & cons | Because common vetch usually produces less growth during the winter and less total biomass during the season than woollypod and purple vetches, it may be less effective at suppressing weeds during the winter, whilst often producing less nitrogen. Some grape growers prefer this slower growth because the vetch will not climb the vines as readily.

Beneficials | Some growers include common vetch in mixes because it has (dark purple) extrafloral nectaries on the lower surface of the stipules, which provide a readily available source of nectar for beneficial insects.

Cultivars | Include ‘Cahaba White’, a hybrid cultivar (Vicia sativa x V. cordata) developed at Auburn University. It resists most root knot nematode species, hence it is recommended for vineyards where these nematodes are a problem. However when sown continuously it will aid the buildup of soil borne pathogens.