Soil, vine, climate change – what is observed – what is expected

To evaluate the current and future impact of climate change on Viticulture requires an integrated view on a complex interacting system within the soil-plant-atmospheric continuum under continuous change. Aside of the globally observed increase in temperature in basically all viticulture regions for at least four decades, we observe several clear trends at the regional level in the ratio of precipitation to potential evapotranspiration. Additionally the recently published 6th assessment report of the IPCC (The physical science basis) shows case-dependent further expected shifts in climate patterns which will have substantial impacts on the way we will conduct viticulture in the decades to come. 
Looking beyond climate developments, we observe rising temperatures in the upper soil layers which will have an impact on the distribution of microbial populations, the decay rate of organic matter or the storage capacity for carbon, thus affecting the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the viscosity of water in the soil-plant pathway, altering the transport of water. If the upper soil layers dry out faster due to less rainfall and/or increased evapotranspiration driven by higher temperatures, the spectral reflection properties of bare soil change and the transport of latent heat into the fruiting zone is increased putting a higher temperature load on the fruit. Interactions between micro-organisms in the rhizosphere and the grapevine root system are poorly understood but respond to environmental factors (such as increased soil temperatures) and the plant material (rootstock for instance), respectively the cultivation system (for example bio-organic versus conventional). This adds to an extremely complex system to manage in terms of increased resilience, adaptation to and even mitigation of climate change. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, effects on the individual expressions of wines with a given origin, seem highly likely to become more apparent. 

Author: Hans R. Schultz

Hochschule Geisenheim University, Geisenheim, Germany 

Email: hans.reiner.schultz@hs-gm.de 

Keywords: regional climate evolution, soil temperature, water balance, soil carbon, greenhouse gas emissions

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