Putting vines to the water test

By December 14th, 2009

CSIRO researchers are studying how grapevines respond to high temperatures and low water availability – conditions which can reduce grape yields by up to 25 per cent.

Adelaide-based CSIRO Plant Industry scientists, Dr Everard Edwards and Dr Brian Loveys, are working to understand the best time to irrigate vineyards to enable Australian farmers to maximise harvest quantity and quality, while saving water.

“We are observing how severe a water deficit vines can experience and still produce a satisfactory harvest,” Dr Edwards said.

“A water deficit occurs when the amount of water applied is less than what the vine can potentially use.

“However, stress may affect yield in subsequent seasons so it is important to examine the time required for recovery after irrigation is resumed.” 

“We are observing how severe a water deficit vines can experience and still produce a satisfactory harvest”

Dr Everard Edwards

Scientists have been investigating stomatal conductance, both in the field and at the molecular level. Stomatal conductance is a measure of how much water a plant can potentially lose through its leaves.

Stomata are pores in plants leaves which regulate gas flows between the plant and the atmosphere. Water stress strongly signals the stomata to close, but this reduces carbon dioxide intake, slowing down photosynthesis and limiting growth and production.

By measuring stomatal behaviour scientists can suggest ways to optimise photosynthesis through careful irrigation management.

This information can then be used by farmers to ensure reliable harvest even in the most challenging climatic conditions.

This research is funded by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation and it is carried out in collaboration with the Wine Innovation Cluster partners (CSIRO, the University of Adelaide, Provisor, SARDI and the Australian Wine Research Institute).

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