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August / September 2022

Guidelines for the Judicious Irrigation of Table Grapes

SA Fruit Journal: August / September 2022

This is the comprehensive version of the same article published in the Jun/Jul'22 edition of the SA Fruit Journal.

Water resources are generally limited in most grape-growing regions, and inconsistent rainfall causes periodic droughts. By Carolyn Howell and Philip Myburgh (ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij)

The shortage of water in many grape growing areas may worsen if climate change reduces rainfall, and increases air temperature. Therefore, growers must use irrigation water more efficiently by means of sound irrigation scheduling practices.

The table grape industry also needs to reduce its "water footprint" to convince consumers that scarce water resources are being used responsibly. Calibration of instruments used for scheduling is not necessarily correct or accurate, because calibrations can differ between soils and/or different soil layers. Refill points, i.e. when irrigation is required, are often selected haphazardly.

Consequently, table grape vineyards are over-irrigated in many cases. Instruments can be calibrated against soil water content or plant water status. However, soil calibrations are tedious and require specialised skills and equipment. On the other hand, it is fairly simple to measure grapevine water status by means of the pressure chamber technique to measure stem water potential (S).

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