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April (No. 495)

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Balancing act of dry-land viticulture

Ben Rose , Performance Viticulture

Real Viticulture is a regular column written exclusively for Grapegrower & Winemaker by Ben Rose, principal consultant of Performance Viticulture. This month Ben has dedicated the column to dry-land viticulture.

Introduction


Dry-land viticulture, or growing grapevines with out irrigation (dry-grown), has a long history within the wine industry, both in Australia and abroad. In Europe, dry-land viticulture still dominates and many countries/regions have made the use of irrigation illegal, or have created environments in which wines made from irrigated grapevines do not meet the criteria for Certificate of Origin wines, which command higher retail prices than wines without this classification.
In Australia there is no regulation on water use specifically for grapevines for wine production and during the past 50 years the industry has moved from predominantly dry-land to majority irrigated vineyards. There are two main reasons for this:
  • to minimise the effects of drought years on both quality and yield
  • to maintain or increase yields to ensure that the returns from grape sales meet the cost of production.


The increase in irrigation and the scarcity of good quality irrigation water has seen an increase in available information about irrigation types, designs and scheduling and the effect on quality and yield. However, there is little information available for dry-land viticultural practices specifically, as dry-land viticulture relies on the same principles as those required for irrigated vineyards, albeit with less margin for error.
Dry-land viticulture relies on the amount of water stored in the soil, plus topping-up with rainfall during the growing season, to provide the vineyard with enough moisture to overcome its evapo-transpirational requirement for that season. Obviously it is successful if the grapes meet the maturity composition required by the winemaker, and the yield parameters of the grower.

NOTE: The complete article can be found in the April issue of The Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker.



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