How six vineyards saved water with Fruition technologies
Wondering how to improve your current irrigation practices? In 2014, Fruition Sciences conducted a study on 8 California vineyards to compare traditional irrigation method and sap flow-based irrigation methods. We hoped to understand the impact of using sap flow sensor as irrigation trigger on water use and vineyard performance relative to traditional irrigation practices.
The experiment was funded by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California under the Innovative Conservation Program, which aims to promote research focused on sustainable water usage, especially in light of the recent California drought.
Fruition Sciences experiment
Fruition Sciences chose eight vineyard sites in Sonoma, Paso Robles and Napa. These vineyards are subject to vastly different climates and soil conditions.
For each vineyard, we compared yield, sugar and maturation profile for blocks subject to traditional irrigation against those subject to the sap flow-based method. We used aerial images to ensure that the control and treatment blocks are as similar as possible.
Summary of data sources for irrigation treatment and fruit quality
(A: Sap flow sensors; B: Weather station; C: Example NDVI of control vs treatment area)
The traditional irrigation method relies on visual observations and climate forecasts, whereas the sap flow-based method triggers irrigation based on a threshold derived from sap flow readings and weather station data. To learn more about the technical details of the experiment, please check out our white paper at https://fruitionsciences.com/en/sciences-white-papers.
We were able to achieve significant water savings across all vineyard sites. Using sap flow sensors reduced the number of irrigation events from as many as 10-25 events to less than 5. On average, the sap flow method cuts down water use by 55% for all vineyards. The chart below illustrates water savings levels for individual vineyard sites.
Comparison of irrigation amounts between treatments
No difference in sugar accumulation was observed for deficit irrigation versus traditional irrigation. In fact, yield and fruit quality were improved for blocks subject to sap flow irrigation treatment. The results demonstrated that deficit irrigation, if done right, can “train” the vine to search for water at deeper soil horizons and produce better fruit without sacrificing yield.
Fruition Sciences offers a full suite of products addressing a variety of vine health monitoring needs. Our product Sap Flow helps winemakers enhance fruit and wine quality while saving significant amounts of water.
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Thibaut holds a Ph.D. in viticulture from the French National Institute of Agronomy at Montpellier, France. His research focused on vine water status variations under dry climates and their consequences on berry ripening. Thibaut also serves as a scientific consultant for various high end vineyards in Napa Valley. Prior to his Ph.D., Thibaut worked as a winemaker for various companies throughout the world (Chile, California, France and Australia). In 2001, he was hired by Robert Mondavi winery as a research viticulturist: his projects focused predominantly on mapping the vineyard variability, analyzing vineyard practices and vine water deficit impact on fruit composition. Thibaut earned a Masters degree in Viticulture and Enology in 1997 and a Masters degree in Winemaking in 1998 from SUPAGRO, one of the top agronomy school in France.
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