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A model vineyard in pots to study grapevine/scion responses to water limitation

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Viticulture

Project number:

FShip Water 4

Project title:

A model vineyard in pots to study grapevine/scion responses to water limitation

Project leader:

Vivier, M


South African Grape and Wine Research Institute, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University

Start date:


Project description:

The aims of this research will be to generate scenarios of water limitation on grapevines that can test (i) the impact of the timing of and (ii) the severity of the water limitation, as well as (iii) the ability of the vines to adapt to the limitation and recuperate after successive drought scenarios.

This proposed study aligns with the existing Water Fship 3 project that studies the adaptability and resilience to water limitation in a model vineyard over the lifespan of the vineyard but provides several unique possibilities due to the fact that it will make use of an existing potted vineyard. The potted vineyard has been established in 2018 and is yielding grapes already. Comprehensive analyses that involve vine growth, berry growth and development as well as berry and wine composition analyses are therefore planned. 

Water scarcity as a result of climate change will impact the grape industry in years to come and will be a long-term threat to grape production in South Africa, an already water-constrained country. The current commercial scions and rootstocks available will be key in managing water-limiting conditions in the short-to-medium term. 

This project will provide a novel resource to the Winetech Flagship Water Programme, namely a potted vineyard comprising a robust experimental design of 29 plant combinations (grafted and ungrafted vines), repeated nine times. It extends and draws on the other FShip Water projects (Fship 1-3) and will particularly support the ongoing research and showcasing of results obtained from Water Fship 3. The potted trial includes additional scion/rootstock combinations (grafted and ungrafted) not evaluated in FShip Water 3. With the vines planted in pots, a greater level of control can be achieved, which is a unique feature.  When the plants experience water stress and to what level the stress will develop can be controlled. Any soil and geospatial variability is removed by using pots and the genotype responses can be monitored with fewer confounding variables. More severe stress responses in a shorter period of time can be generated due to the limited soil volume and rain can be excluded by covering the pots. Furthermore, the location and layout of the trial make it ideal for sensor and technology testing. 

This study will yield both academic outputs and practical information suitable to be translated to industry. The potted vines and the planned experiments will be ideal to showcase the impacts of the modulated water limitations. The trial will serve as a demonstration site for industry professionals and other stakeholders as well as be a site where student engagement and training can take place.


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