Relevance of the Lin's and Host hydropedological models to predict grape yield and wine quality
Abstract. The adoption of precision agriculture in viticulture could be greatly enhanced by the diffusion of straightforward and easy to be applied hydropedological models, able to predict the spatial variability of available soil water. The Lin's and Host hydropedological models were applied to standard soil series descriptions and hillslope position, to predict the distribution of hydrological functional units in two vineyard and their relevance for grape yield and wine quality. A three-years trial was carried out in Chianti (Central Italy) on Sangiovese. The soils of the vineyards differentiated in structure, porosity and related hydropedological characteristics, as well as in salinity. Soil spatial variability was deeply affected by earth movement carried out before vine plantation. Six plots were selected in the different hydrological functional units of the two vineyards, that is, at summit, backslope and footslope morphological positions, to monitor soil hydrology, grape production and wine quality. Plot selection was based upon a cluster analysis of local slope, topographic wetness index (TWI), and cumulative moisture up to the root limiting layer, appreciated by means of a detailed combined geophysical survey. Water content, redox processes and temperature were monitored, as well as yield, phenological phases, and chemical analysis of grapes. The isotopic ratio δ13C was measured in the wine ethanol upon harvesting to evaluate the degree of stress suffered by vines. The grapes in each plot were collected for wine making in small barrels. The wines obtained were analysed and submitted to a blind organoleptic testing.
The results demonstrated that the combined application of the two hydropedological models can be used for the prevision of the moisture status of soils cultivated with grape during summertime in Mediterranean climate. As correctly foreseen by the models, the amount of mean daily transpirable soil water (TSW) during the growing season differed considerably between the vineyards and increased significantly along the three positions on slope in both vineyards. The water accumulation along slope occurred in every year, even during the very dry 2006. The installation of indicators of reduction in soils (IRIS) tubes allowed confirmation of the occurrence of reductive processes in the most shallow soil.
Both Sangiovese grape yield and quality of wine were influenced by the interaction between TSW content and salinity, sometimes contrary to expectations. Therefore, the studied hydropedological models were not relevant to predict grape yield and wine quality in all the hydrological functional units. The diffusion of hydropedological models in precision viticulture could be boosted considering salinity along with topography and soil hydrological characteristics.