Terroir 2020 banner
IVES 9 IVES Conference Series 9 Plant nitrogen assimilation and partitioning as a function of crop load

Plant nitrogen assimilation and partitioning as a function of crop load


Aims: The optimization of nitrogen use efficiency (NUE, i.e. uptake, assimilation and partitioning) is a solution towards the sustainable production of premium wines, while reducing fertilization and environmental impact. The influence of crop load on the accumulation of N compounds in fruits is still poorly understood. The present study assesses the impacts of bunch thinning on NUE and the consequences on the free amino N (FAN) profile in fruits.

Methods and Results: A large crop load gradient was imposed by bunch thinning (0.5 to 2.5 kg m–2) in a homogeneous plot of 225 vines. Isotope-labelled foliar urea (10 atom % 15N) was applied on the canopy of the fertilized treatment at veraison. The plants were excavated at four phenological stages over the two seasons (bud burst, flowering, veraison and harvest) and were individually split into five plant parts (roots, trunk, canopy, pomace and must). Total nitrogen and its stable isotope composition were determined in each part, with the aim of monitoring NUE as a function of crop load and fertilization.

The N concentration in fruits either at veraison or at harvest was not related to crop load variation. N concentration was maintained in the must to the detriment of N content in the roots. The root dry weight was 15 % lower and the root N quantity 27 % lower under high yielding conditions (HYC, compared to low yielding conditions LYC). The fertilizer N uptake was 41 % higher under HYC than under LYC. Consequently, urea supply had a positive impact on the yeast assimilable N concentration in the must (+55 mg L-1) only under HYC. However, the must FAN profile was significantly affected by the crop load, suggesting a possible modification of the aroma potential, independently from fertilization and grape maturation.


Using a 15N-labeling method, we demonstrate that grapevine has a strong ability to regulate nitrogen uptake and reserve mobilization to maintain a constant fruit N concentration despite changes in crop load. Foliar-urea fertilization at veraison was more efficient under HYC and helped to fulfill grape N demand, while limiting the mobilization of N reserves. However, the crop load affected the must FAN profile, inducing a possible modification of the fruit aroma. 

Significance and Impact of the Study: These findings highlight the great capacity of plants to adapt their N metabolism to constraints, e.g. bunch thinning in this case. These results are important to improve perennial fruit crop production through higher fertilization efficiency and lower environmental impact. Without fertilization, plant nutrition can be enhanced through the optimization of agricultural practices. The root activity appears to be key for understanding the mechanisms that balance N nutrition in plants


Publication date: March 25, 2021

Issue: Terroir 2020

Type : Video


Thibaut Verdenal1, Vivian Zufferey1, Agnes Dienes-Nagy1, Olivier Viret2, Cornelis van Leeuwen3, Jorge Spangenberg4, Jean-Laurent Spring1

1Agroscope Institute, Av. Rochettaz 21, CH-1009 Pully, Switzerland
2Direction générale de l’agriculture, de la viticulture et des affaires vétérinaires (DGAV), Av. de Marcelin 29, CH-1110 Morges, Switzerland
3EGFV, Bordeaux Sciences Agro, INRAE, Univ. Bordeaux, ISVV, F-33882 Villenave d’Ornon, France
4Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

Contact the author


Nitrogen partitioning, crop load, isotope labelling, amino acids, vines


IVES Conference Series | Terroir 2020


Related articles…


The overall quality of aged wines is in part due to the development of complex aromas over a long period (1.) The apparition of this aromatic complexity depends on multiple chemical reactions that include the liberation of odorous compounds from non-odorous precursors. One example of this phenomenon is found in dimethyl sulphide (DMS) which, with its characteristic odor truffle, is a known contributor to the bouquet of premium aged wine bouquet (1). DMS supposedly accumulates during the ten first years of ageing thanks to the hydrolysis of its precursor dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSp.) DMSp is a possible secondary by-product from the degradation of S-methylmethionine (SMM), an amino acid iden- tified in grapes (2), which can be metabolized by yeast during alcoholic fermentation.

The history of the first demarkated wine region of the world – the Tokaj wine region

The optimal climatic conditions of the region were proved in 1867, when a leaf-print of Vitis tokaiensis was found in a stone from miocen age (13 million years ago).

Effect of vigour and number of clusters on eonological parameters and metabolic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon red wines

Vegetative growth and yield are reported to affect grape and wine quality. They can be controlled through different techniques linked to vine management. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of vine vigour and number of clusters per vine on physicochemical composition and phenolic profile of red wines. The experiment was carried out during two vegetative cycles, with cv. Cabernet Sauvignon grafted onto Paulsen 1103. Three vine vigour were defined, according to shoot weight at previous harvests, being low, medium and high. Five treatments of number of clusters were used for each vigour, with 15, 22, 29, 36, and 45 clusters per vine. Grapes from all treatments were harvested in the same day from Brix and total acidity criteria. Thirty days after bottling, classical analyzes and phenolic compounds were performed. As results, different responses were obtained from each vintage. In 2020, a dry season from veraison to harvest, grapes and wines obtained from low vigour treatment and 45 clusters per vine was the highest in sugar and alcohol content respectively, while grapes and wines from high vigour and 15 clusters presented the lowest sugar and alcohol content. Total anthocyanins were higher in treatment with low vigour and 15 clusters, while the lowest amounts were found in low vigour with 45 clusters, as well as medium and high vigour with 36 clusters per vine. Total tannins were higher in high vigour with 22 clusters and medium vigour with 29 clusters, while were lower in low vigour with 36 clusters. In 2021, a wet season at harvest, responses were different, and great variations were observed between treatments. As conclusions, yield and vine vigour had strong influence on grape and wine quality, promoting different enological potentials on which can be indicated/used for aging strategies of red and even rosé wines.

Considerations about the concept of “terroir”: definition and research direction

On exposera la distinction et la relation entre: “Etude des milieux”, “Zonage Petit ou Zonage Technique ou Sub Zonage”, “Grand Zonage”, “Délimitation des zones productives” ex.

Effetti del cambiamento climatico europeo sulle epoche di vendemmia in Abruzzo

I dati termo-pluviometrici del periodo 1971-2009 registrati da alcune stazioni della regione Abruzzo sono stati analizzati adottando alcuni semplici indici climatici e bioclimatici. E’ stato valutato il verificarsi di cambiamenti climatici così come le loro ripercussioni sulle date di inizio vendemmia.