δ13C : A still underused indicator in precision viticulture  

The first demonstration of the interest of carbon isotope composition of sugars in grapevine, as an integrated indicator of vineyard water status, dates back to 2000 (Gaudillère et al., 1999; Van Leeuwen et al., 2001). Thanks to the isotopic discrimination of Carbon that takes place during plant photosynthesis, under hydric stress conditions, it is possible to accurately estimate the photosynthetic activity. Ever since, δ13C has been widely applied with success to zonation, terroir studies and vine physiology research, but is still not widely used by viticulturists. This is quite astonishing by considering the impact of global warming on viticulture and the need to improve water management, that would justify a widespread use of δ13C.
The lack of private laboratories proposing the analysis, the cost of the technology, as well as the long analytical delays, have been detrimental to its development. Some laboratories tried to overcome the analytical difficulties of isotopic analysis by using fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy, as a fast and cheap alternative to the official OIV method (IRMS). These claimed FTIR models have never been published or peer reviewed and cannot be considered robust. In this work, thanks to the recent acquisition of IRMS technology, new modern and robust applications of δ13C for viticulture are proposed. This includes the use of the analysis to make parcel separations at harvesting, the possibility to increase the precision of hydric stress cartography and the potential cost reduction when compared with Scholander pressure bomb analysis. 

Authors: Tommaso Nicolato and Vincent Renouf

EXCELL Laboratory, Floirac, France

Email: tnicolato@labexcell.com

Keywords: δ13C, water stress, isotopic analysis, irms, grapes

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