Impact of different irrigation strategies on grapes and wine quality of four grapevine cultivars (Vitis sp.) in cool climate conditions. An investigation into the relationships among ABA, water status, grape cultivar and wine quality
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Niagara Peninsula of Ontario is the largest viticultural area in Canada. Although it is considered to be a cool and wet region, in the last decade many water stress events occurred during the growing seasons with negative effects on grape and wine quality. This study was initiated to understand and develop the best strategies for water management in vineyards and those that might contribute to grape maturity advancement. The irrigation trials investigated the impact of time of initiation (fruit set, lag phase and veraison), water replacement level based on theoretical loss through crop evapotranspiration (ETc; 100,50 and 25%) and different irrigation strategies [partial root zone drying (PRD) versus regulated deficit irrigation (RD!)] on grape composition and wine sensory profiles. The irrigation experiments were conducted in a commercial vineyard (Lambert Vineyards Inc.) located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, from 2005 through 2009. The two experiments that tested the combination of different water regimes and irrigation time initiation were set up in a randomized block design as follows: Baco noir - three replicates x 10 treatments [(25%, 50% and 100% of ETc) x (initiation at fruit set, lag phase and veraison) + control]; Chardonnay - three replicates x seven treatments [(25%, 50% and 100% of ETc) x (initiation at fruit set and veraison) + control]. The experiments that tested different irrigation strategies were set up on two cultivars as follows: Sauvignon blanc - four replicates x four treatments [control, fully irrigated (100% ETc), PRD (100% ETc) and RDI (25% ETc)]; Cabemet Sauvignon - four replicates x five treatments [control, fully irrigated (100% ETc), PRD (100% ETc), RDI (50% ETc) and RDI (25% ETc)]. The controls in each experiment were nonirrigated. The irrigation treatments were compared for many variables related to soil water status, vine physiology, berry composition, wine sensory profile, and hormone composition [(abscisic acid (ABA) and its catabolites]. Soil moisture profile was mostly affected by irrigation treatments between 20 and 60 em depth depending on the grapevine cultivar and the regime of water applied. Overall soil moisture was consistently higher throughout the season in 100 and 50% ETc compare to the control. Transpiration rates and leaf temperature as well as shoot growth rate were the most sensitive variables to soil water status. Drip irrigation associated with RDI treatments (50% ETc and 25% ETc) had the most beneficial effects on vine physiology, fruit composition and wine varietal typicity, mainly by maintaining a balance between vegetative and reproductive parts of the vine. Neither the control nor the 100 ETc had overall a positive effect on grape composition and wine sensory typicity. The time of irrigation initiation affected the vine physiology and grape quality, the most positive effect was found in treatments initiated at lag phase and veraison. RDI treatments were overall more consistent in their positive effect on grape composition and wine varietal typicity comparing to PRD treatment. The greatest difference between non-irrigated and irrigated vines in most of the variables studied was found in 2007, the driest and hottest season of the experimental period. Soil water status had a greater and more consistent effect on red grapevine cultivars rather than on white winegrape cultivars. To understand the relationships among soil and plant water status, plant physiology and the hormonal profiles associated with it, abscisic acid (ABA) and its catabolites [phaseic acid (PA), dihydrophaseic acid (DPA), 7-hydroxy-ABA (TOH-ABA), 8' -hydroxy-ABA, neophaseic acid and abscisic acid glucose ester (ABA-GE)] were analyzed in leaves and berries from the Baco noir and Chardonnay irrigation trials over two growing seasons. ABA and some of its catabolites accurately described the water status in the vines. Endogenous ABA and some of its catabolites were strongly affected in Baco noir and Chardonnay by both the water regime (i.e. ET level) and timing of irrigation initiation. Chardonnay grapevines produced less ABA in both leaves and berries compared to Baco noir, which indicated that ABA synthesis is also cultivar dependant. ABA-GE was the main catabolite in treatments with high water deficits, while PA and DPA were higher in treatments with high water status, suggesting that the vine produced more ABA-GE under water deficits to maintain rapid control of the stomata. These differences between irrigation treatments with respect to ABA and catabolites were particularly noticeable in the dry 2007 season. Two trials using exogenous ABA investigated the effect of different concentrations of ABA and organs targeted for spraying, on grape maturation and berry composition of Cabemet Sauvignon grapevines, in two cool and wet seasons (2008-2009). The fIrst experiment consisted of three replicates x three treatments [(150 and 300 mg/L, both applications only on clusters) + untreated control] while the second experiment consisted in three replicates x four treatments [(full canopy, only clusters, and only leaves sprayed with 300 ppm ABA) + untreated control]. Exogenous ABA was effective in hastening veraison, and improving the composition of Cabemet Sauvignon. Ability of ABA to control the timing of grape berry maturation was dependant on both solution concentration and the target organ. ABA affected not only fruit composition but also yield components. Berries treated with ABA had lower weight and higher skin dry mass, which constitutes qualitative aspects desired in the wine grapes. Temporal advancement of ripening through hormonal control can lead to earlier fruit maturation, which is a distinct advantage in cooler areas or areas with a high risk of early frost occurrence. Exogenous ABA could provide considerable benefits to wine industry in terms of grape composition, wine style and schedule activities in the winery, particularly in wet and cool years. These trials provide the ftrst comprehensive data in eastern North America on the response of important hybrid and Vitis vinifera winegrape cultivars to irrigation management. Results from this study additionally might be a forward step in understanding the ABA metabolism, and its relationship with water status. Future research should be focused on ftnding the ABA threshold required to trigger the ripening process, and how this process could be controlled in cool climates.