Delaying irrigation initiation linearly reduces yield with little impact on maturity in Pinot noir

When to initiate irrigation is a critical annual management decision that has cascading effects on grapevine productivity and wine quality in the context of climate change. A multi-site trial was begun in 2021 to optimize irrigation initiation timing using midday stem water potential (ψstem) thresholds characterized as departures from non-stressed baseline ψstemvalues (Δψstem). Plant material, vine and row spacing, and trellising systems were concomitant among sites, while vine age, soil type, and pruning systems varied. Five target Δψstem thresholds were arranged in an RCBD and replicated eight times at each site: 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8, and 1.0 MPa (T1, T2, T3, T4, and T5, respectively). When thresholds were reached, plots were irrigated weekly at 70% ETc. Yield components and berry composition were quantified at harvest. To better generalize inferences across sites, data were analyzed by ANOVA using a mixed model including site as a random factor. Across sites, irrigation was initiated at Δψstem = 0.24, 0.50, 0.65, 0.93, and 0.98 MPa for T1, T2, T3, T4, and T5, respectively. Consistent significant negative linear trends were found for several key yield and berry composition variables. Yield decreased by 12.9, 15.9, 19.5, and 27.4% for T2, T3, T4, and T5, respectively, compared to T1 (p < 0.0001) across sites that were driven by similarly linear reductions in berry weight (< 0.0001). Comparatively, berry composition varied little among treatments. Juice total soluble solids decreased linearly from T1 to T5 – though only ranged 0.9 Brix (p = 0.012). Because producers are paid by the ton, and contracts simply stipulate a target maturity level, first-year results suggest that there is no economic incentive to induce moderate water deficits before irrigation initiation, regardless of vineyard site. Subsequent years will further elucidate the carryover effects of delaying irrigation initiation on productivity over the long term.

Authors: Alexander Levin1,2, Mariana Stowasser1, Ricky Clark1 and Joseph DeShields1

1Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, Oregon State University, Central Point, USA 
2Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA


Keywords: water deficit, stem water potential, threshold, irrigation, productivity

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