Resources for Vines

Intro text

We have been using Aquaflex on the vineyard for more than five years now. Aquaflex has become an essential tool to help with soil moisture management. It is easy to use. The data provided is easy to interpret and has proven to be very reliable. - Lloyd Steffert Vineyard Manager, Waihopai Estates, Constellation NZ

The wine world is becoming more discerning in its tastes. Customers are now far more focused on wine quality and many markets are interested in how the wine was produced. One of the keys to future success is being able to show your customers how your wine was produced with sustainable and environmentally conscious practices. The savings in water can be substantial without even considering the fact that you may be able to reduce the effects of too much vigor in the vines, and the cost savings of not having to deal with excess canopy growth. Without reliable soil moisture monitoring it is very difficult to determine the current soil water status and the actions that must be taken to induce enough stress to reduce the vegetative growth or control fruit size.

Quality is not an accident; it is the result of intelligent thinking. - Barry Feickert, Redwood Pass Vineyard, Marlborough, NZ

A vineyard is a widely spaced row crop and as a result of this and the use of drip irrigation in most cases means traditional soil moisture sensors can struggle to characterise the soil water status due to the extremely variable soil water conditions. A typical installation in a vineyard consists of 1 or 2 sensors per site. The diagram above shows the main root zone sensor installed on a slope to integrate the water content both horizontally (down row) and vertically (over the root zone) to provide an easily interpreted number to make irrigation management decisions with. The deeper (optional) horizontal sensor is often referred to as a ‘check sensor’ and has dual functionality. Firstly it can be used to make sure you do not over water. If placed below the main root zone at say 600mm (variety and soil dependent) it will show you if your irrigation is too heavy and pulses of water are moving past the lower sensor and therefore the bulk of the root zone. Secondly it can help monitor the onset of stress. As the water content is lowered in the main root zone the vine will start to extract water from lower levels in the soil profile. The lower sensor can be used to balance the stress imposed on the vine by allowing the viticulturist to monitor changes in extraction patterns from that depth. This is where Aquaflex really comes into its own as the 3m long sensing strip helps integrate the water content along the row giving a very accurate picture of the irrigation requirements of the vines.

 

Vine installation

Overview:

  • Aquaflex sensors are placed within the plant row (root zone), between plants.
  • The tape is stood vertically within the trench, to avoid the pooling of water on it.
  • The same trench may be used for both sensors, placing the top sensor within the back-filled section of the trench.
  • The top sensor is set at an angle across the row – through the root zone in a sloping trench. (The tip at ~500mm deep the tape sloping upward to ~50mm from the surface then bending the tape over to the block which is placed is placed at ~100mm from soil surface).
  • The bottom Aquaflex sensor is set at the base of a ~600mm trench once again tape standing vertically within the trench.

Installation steps:

  1. Dig a trench to the nominated depth. Care should be taken to remove the soil carefully when digging the trench.
    Placement of the soil on a sheet of polyethylene, or similar, assists in retaining the soil in a position to enable
    you to return the soil back to where it came from
  2. Place the sensor in the trench and place soil around the sensor to ensure good contact between the soil and the sensor.
    Remember: The tape is stood vertically within the trench, to avoid the pooling of water on it.
  3. Tamp the soil back layer by layer to replace the soil back to the same density as it was as best as possible