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South African vineyards test putting an end to irrigation

By Vitisphere November 09, 2022
South African vineyards test putting an end to irrigation
A whole series of analyses on meteorology, the water balance in the soil, the reaction of the plant, the architecture of the roots, microbial life in the soil and the vine stock, etc. is being launched this year through to 2027. - crédit photo : Patrick Touchais

n France, after a particularly hot year, discussions on whether to irrigate vines are ongoing across the country, but in South Africa, the opposite thought process is emerging. In a country where irrigation is commonplace, research on whether to end the technique has been underway for two years. It was presented by lead local university researcher Melané Vivier at the international Chenin blanc congress from 1 to 3 November in Stellenbosch.

I don't need to remind you that the climate is changing and we will have less water”, she stressed in her introduction. At the University of Stellenbosch’s Welgevallen experimental vineyard, various grape varieties – including Chenin – were planted in 2020 with a mix of rootstocks and clones. In total, more than 180 methods (i.e. more than 10,000 vines) were introduced. Some vines are irrigated, with different annual volumes, whilst others are not irrigated at all.

According to the very first data, Melané Vivier specified that “in the irrigated areas, the growth was greater, but even from a visual perspective, you can see that Chenin in particular has a good ability to cope, the vines are developing well”. The research will therefore continue over time, to see how the vines react over several years, but also to study “the memory of water stress in the plant”.


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