Aim: The regulation of the vegetative-reproductive balance of a vineyard is a critical aspect for the quality of grapes. Early leaf removal, generally applied before the phenological stage of flowering, is mainly used as a technique to control yield and improve grape health, aimed at increasing the quality of the wine. The vineyard’s response to early leaf removal may depend on the variety, climate, and growing conditions. The aim of this study is to assess the impacts of early leaf removal on the optimisation of the grape ripening process.
Methods and Results: In the D.O. Rueda, Spain, throughout the period of 2015-2018, the application of basal leaf removal was applied at the beginning of flowering. The first eight adult leaves were removed from the base of all the shoots and vine performance assessed. The trial was carried out in a rain fed vineyard of Verdejo, grafted to 110R, planted in 2006, with 2.60 x 1.25 m row and vine spacing, and trained on to a vertical trellis.
Early leaf removal reduced yield by 15%, through a reduction in the bunch weight, affected by a reduction in the number of berries. The weight of the berry and the number of clusters per vine were not affected by early leaf removal. The vegetative development was affected by leaf removal, slightly reducing the leaf area and the pruning weight, in line with the weight of the shoot, also reducing the Ravaz index.
The concentration of sugars increased slightly due to early leaf removal. The pH of must was slightly lower, while the titratable acidity and the tartaric acid increased slightly with the application of leaf removal. The malic acid decreased and the potassium increased slightly due to early leaf removal.
Conclusions: Early leaf removal can be applied to control yield and to favour the maturation and the quality of Verdejo grapes grown under rainfed conditions. However, its application must be considered according to the climatic situation and the type of wine that is intended to be produced.
Significance and Impact of the Study: A benefit of early leaf removal is a reduction in cluster compactness and cluster weight which can improve the grape quality in the cv. Verdejo under rainfed conditions, taking into account the desired grape characteristics.
Authors: Jesus Yuste* and Daniel Martinez-Porro
Instituto Tecnologico Agrario de Castilla y Leon, Ctra. Burgos km 119, 47071 Valladolid, Spain
Keywords: Acidity, grapevine, ripening, sugars, yield