Coupling Surface Renewal, The VSIM Model, Infrared Thermometry and Plant Water Stress Indicators to Optimize Water Application in Vineyards

Grape growers are in need of improved precision irrigation management tools that are cost effective and low labor intensive to manage both irrigation amount and timing of their crops. Multiple experiments were carried out to find alternative methods to measure grape water stress that could be couple with water use estimates obtained from surface renewal stations. These methods ranged from using single point IRT temperature measurements to fully automated station that measured surface temperature in real time. The primary objective of this year’s experiments was to determine if stress indices derived from less labor intensive methods such using VSIM and IRT models could be used as a replacement to the more costly and labor intensive commonly used by growers at this time.

Experiments were carried out in three locations. Ten surface renewal stations measured grape water use and water stress in J. Lohr vineyards located in Paso Robles. Leaf water potential measurements were made along with single point IRT canopy temperature measurements using a handheld IRT sensor. Stress indices derived from the handheld IRT temperature values had inconsistent degrees of relationship strength from one site to the next, when compared to leaf water potential values. There was no single stress index, IRT or surface renewal derived, that performed consistently better than the others across all sites. Two stationary stations measured continuous canopy temperature measurements on J. Lohr sites 11-2 and 1-2. Micrometeorological data was collected from reference evapotranspiration stations set up nearby. Stress indices derived from these two stations had strong relationships with the leaf water potential values that were measured.

Two more stationary stations making continual IRT surface temperature measurements were set up in collaboration with Terlato Wine Group over vineyards in the Napa and Pope valleys. Micrometeorological data collected from nearby weather stations were used along with the IRT surface temperatures to calculate stress indices. These stress indices had strong relationships with leaf water potential measurements.

A weather station was set up in the UC Davis Tyree teaching vineyard equipped with sensors to measure canopy temperature, windspeed, air temperature, incoming solar radiation, and relative humidity. Sensible heat flux values calculated using IRT surface temperatures and the surface renewal method had a strong relationship with sensible heat flux values calculated from eddy covariance. Canopy stomatal conductance calculated using IRT canopy temperature measurements had a strong relationship with leaf stomatal conductance values measured with a porometer and stress indices also showed high correlation with leaf water potential measurements made on the Cabernet grape vines.

Comparing Nitrogen Fertilization in the Vineyard versus Supplementation in the Winery on Quality of Pinot noir and Chardonnay Wines and Productivity in the Vineyard

The overall goal of this project is to understand how nitrogen fertilization in the vineyard as compared to nitrogen supplementation in the winery affects wine properties in both a red and white cultivar. To achieve this goal, we are working in 2 vineyard blocks (Pinot noir and Chardonnay) each with a history of low nitrogen status, so that nitrogen can be added in the vineyard (to boost native must YAN) and also in the winery (to boost either ammonium-N or organic-N components of native YAN). Each variety trial has 4 treatments being evaluated using 4 replicates from the vineyard. The treatments are:

  • A) No N in vineyard + No N added in winery
  • B) No N in vineyard + DAP in winery
  • C) No N in vineyard + ORG-N in winery
  • D) N Fertilized in vineyard.

The Pinot noir block was used for this trial beginning in 2015, but 2016 was the first year for Chardonnay. Unfortunately, the Pinot noir block was mistakenly tilled (alternate alleyways) by the vineyard crew in early April of 2016. We therefore, quickly replanted a grass cover crop in those alleyways, but the establishment was rather poor. The N fertilized treatment for both vineyards received 3 additions of 20 pounds per acre N, for a total of 60 pounds in 2016. We will likely reduce this to 40 pounds total in 2017, depending on results. The vineyard N addition in 2016 increased vine N status in both blocks, but the Chardonnay block responded faster and had a larger change than the Pinot noir block. The resulting must YAN levels were increased in N-fertilized vines by 38{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} in Pinot noir (from 176 to 243 NOPA YAN) and by 90{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} in Chardonnay (from 99 to 189 NOPA YAN). The vineyard N addition did not influence growth or yield of Pinot noir, nor growth of Chardonnay. The unfertilized treatment that was slated to receive organic N supplementation in the winery (treatment C) did have lower yield than the N-fertilized treatment in Chardonnay, but the other 2 treatments did not differ from the N-fertilized. Fruit solar exposure and vine water status were not altered by N fertilization in either variety in 2016. After winery additions to treatment B (+DAP) and C (+ORG-N), the N-fertilized and winery supplemented N treatments (B, C and D) had higher YAN than the Control (A) in Pinot noir. In Chardonnay, the + DAP (B) and N-fertilized (D) had the highest YAN, the + ORG-N (C) was lower than those 2 treatments, and the Control was lower still in YAN. The Pinot noir musts from N-fertilized vines fermented 1 day faster (significant at P < 0.05) than all other musts, even though YAN was just as high in the +DAP and +ORG-N musts. In Chardonnay, the Control musts with lowest YAN took about 2.5 more days to complete ferment than all other treatments, but this was not significant (P > 0.05). The sensory analysis of the 2016 wines will begin this summer.

An Integrated Approach to Understanding How Grapevine Root Systems Respond To and Recover From Drought Stress

With our first year of funding from CGRIC, we made significant progress on this project and exciting new discoveries about grapevine fine root responses to drought that shed light on the differences among genotypes/rootstocks. The start date of the project was delayed by ~12months while we waited for the funds to become available, thus we couldn’t justify submitting a renewal in January 2016 for additional funds. We are now submitting a renewal to continue these efforts, which will cover the costs for the second year of the project. Our labs are continuing to work together closely on this and other related projects. In addition to the experimental results described below, we have collected and begun analyzing suberin responses using flurol yellow staining for the following 16 rootstocks/genotypes from a drought experiment run by Dr. Kevin Fort (Walker Lab)

Evaluation of New Winegrape Varieties for the San Joaquin Valley

Fifty six different red and white wine grape selections are being evaluated at the Kearney Agricultural Center, in Parlier, CA. These varieties were originally selected because they originate from warm-climate Mediterranean regions, and/or were believed to have traits that would be desirable in a warm climate wine region, like the San Joaquin Valley. Most of the selections tested were relatively recently released to the industry from Foundation Plant Services and had not been previously evaluated in California. All vines are on 1103P rootstock, trained to bilateral cordons, and most were spur pruned, leaving 8 to 10 two-bud spurs per meter of cordon. However, beginning in 2013, certain varieties have also been subjected to simulated mechanical pruning. Grapes were harvested according sugar accumulation, with the harvest target for white varieties at 22° Brix, and reds at 25° Brix. A few select varieties were picked at higher or lower Brix depending on a number of factors, including the desired wine style. At harvest, yield components, rot incidence, and basic juice chemistry were determined for all 56 varieties. As was typical in the region for 2015 and similar to 2014, the early ripening varieties were harvested earlier than in previous years. The first harvest occurred on 28 July 2015, and included Erbaluce, Petit Manseng, and Picolit. Fiano, typically the earliest variety harvested, followed soon after on 30 July 2015. Having failed to meet the desired Brix threshold for harvest, hand-pruned Parellada, Vernaccia Nera, and Counoise, and mechanically pruned Counoise, Caladoc, and Corvina Veronese, were harvested at the end of the season in early November. Total yields (inclusive of rot) ranged from 5.53 kg/vine (Carmenere) to 26.75 kg/vine (hand pruned Counoise). For the simulated mechanical pruning selections, yields were generally similar or greater than their hand pruned counterparts, with the exception of Counoise. Mechanical pruning either did not affect or reduced rot incidence for varieties harvested before October. But for the late ripening varieties, the late harvest required, probably due to overcropping in the mechanically pruned treatment, increased rot incidence in Corvina Veronese and Caladoc. Red and white varieties varied widely with respect to harvest date, pH, and titratable acidity. Twelve varieties which performed very poorly in the first two years of the trial were topworked to new selections in 2014 and used to make wine in 2015. From the work done in previous years, the most promising varieties were identified and, combined with the newly grafted varieties, a total of 23 selections were made into wine at Constellation Brand’s experimental winery and the finished wines will be evaluated and presented in the coming year. A selection of varieties that have been consistently poor performers with regards to rot and late ripening have been identified and are good candidates to be grafted over into more-promising selections in the future of this variety trial.

Mitigation of Vineyard Greenhouse Gas Production Using Organic Floor Management Approaches

This project represents an overarching effort to develop accurate metrics for vineyard carbon footprints under two widely used organic treatments. The project coordinates with efforts by Dr. William Salas (Applied Geosolutions LLC) and Alison Jordan of the Wine Institute to calibrate the DeNitrification DeComposition model (DNDC). The model will be embedded into decision support systems (DSS) providing trending analyses for use by practitioners for carbon and energy assessments (https://metrics.sustainablewinegrowing.org/). The modeling exercises will allow us to test multiple management practices in order to lessen (mitigate) N2O emissions from California vineyards. The data is being made available to Dr. Alissa Kendall and Sonja Brodt of the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering and Agricultural Sustainability Institute to assemble life cycle analyses for carbon footprints of vineyards. In this report we outline mechanistic studies undertaken to understand microbial processes and therefore better calibrate the DNDC model.

Determine The Impact of Cluster Thinning and Cluster Zone Leaf Removal on the Hormone Content of Pinot Noir Grape Berry

During the past six months we have succeeded to reproduce the flower-to-berry monitoring procedure developed in our lab with similar outcomes. The justification of this procedure is to mitigate the extreme variability of flowering events in a cluster that is assumed to explain the berry variability. Using this procedure, we were able to distinguish “early” berries (emerging from early flowering events) from “late” berries (emerging from late flowering events). Previous observations in our group suggested that flowering time was not the major contributing factor of the ripeness variability at mid- véraison stage (50{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} of berries are green and 50{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} are colored) . This was confirmed again this year via the monitoring of several phenological parameters on “early” and “late” berries. We also confirmed that the seed weight relative to seed weight better explained the ripeness of individual berries at mid-véraison stage regardless of whether berries were categorized in the early or late berry groups. Interestingly, by monitoring berry size and berry weight, we also found that “early” and “late” berries rapidly overlapped their growing curves during the early stages of the growing season (week 3 to week 6 after bloom), which suggests a developmental mechanism to mitigate developmental variability among berries of a cluster.

On the other hand, ripeness variability at véraison was not associated with berries being “early” or “late” as both berry groups had a wide range of ripeness level at mid-véraison stage (sugar and pigment content). We also validated the effects of two viticulture practices (cluster thinned and fruit-zone leaf removal) on sugar and pigment contents regardless of whether berries were “early” or “late”. In vines with clusters thinned at 0.5/shoot, both accumulation of sugar and pigment contents were significantly higher in berries during the late stages of the ripening. For the fruit-zone leaf removed, only pigment content was significantly increased in sun-exposed clusters during weeks 12-15. The fine screening we performed to mitigate the developmental variability of berries has been successfully conducted and we are in the second phase of the project this year, which is the quantification of hormone and metabolite in control, cluster thinned, and fruit-zone leaf removed grapevines.

Evaluation of New Winegrape Varieties for the San Joaquin Valley

Fifty six different red and white wine grape selections originating from warm-climate Mediterranean regions, and/or believed to have traits that would be desirable in a warm climate wine region, are being evaluated at the Kearney Agricultural Center, in Parlier, CA. Most of the selections tested were recently released to the industry from Foundation Plant Services, so certified selections have not previously been evaluated in California. All vines are on 1103P rootstock, trained to bilateral cordons, and most were spur pruned, leaving 8 or 9 two-bud spurs per meter of cordon. However, beginning in 2013, certain varieties have also been subjected to simulated machine pruning. In general, we attempted to harvest all white varieties at 22 Brix, and reds at 24 Brix, but certain selections were picked at higher or lower Brix depending on a number of factors, including the desired wine style. At harvest, yield components, rot incidence, and basic chemistry were determined and wine lots were made from some selections at Constellation Brand’s experimental winery. Many varieties were harvested earlier in 2014 than they were in previous years. Fiano, a white variety, has typically been the earliest variety harvested (early August), but several other early whites and a red variety were also harvested on 11 August 2014, the same day as Fiano. About a half dozen red and white varieties failed to meet their target soluble solids level even though the last harvests occurred in early November. Yields ranged from less than 4 kg per vine for Prieto Picudo to about 30 kg of fruit per vine from the machine-pruned Counoise, a red variety. Red and white varieties varied widely with respect to harvest date, pH, and titratable acidity. Wines from the trial will be made available for tasting and analysis in 2015, as they have been in most of the past several years. Twelve varieties which performed very poorly in the first two years of the trial were topworked to new selections in 2014, with full crops expected in 2015. Some varieties were subjected to simulated machine pruning to determine if yield and rot problems could be ameliorated. In most cases, machine pruning substantially reduced rot and increased yields, but the higher yield severely delayed ripening of some varieties and, in Falanghina, was associated with slightly higher levels of rot.

Evaluation of Grapevine Rootstock Selections

A team of academic, government, and industry partners developed a plan for evaluating nearly 700 rootstock selections from a USDA-ARS rootstock breeding program. All the vines were assessed for desirable traits, including the production of abundant, well-matured canes of adequate diameter, length, and internode spacing, with minimal lateral shoot growth, powdery mildew scars, freeze damage, or fruit production. Based on these criteria, 240 vines having very poor traits were identified and discarded, and 30 selections with very good traits were prioritized for further evaluation. Cuttings from the high-priority selections were distributed to several academic and industry labs, where their rooting ability, nematode resistance, and virus status were tested. These tests narrowed the high priority list to six virus-free stocks which were resistant to aggressive strains of root-knot nematodes (RKNs). Some of the six high-priority vines rooted poorly in one or both cooperator’s labs. Weak rooting is unacceptable, and may confound nematode resistance testing, so we propose to retest these selections, using more cuttings, and benefitting from the expertise of a commercial grapevine nursery. Most of the remaining selections were eliminated because they were found to be susceptible to RKN by one or both labs, or they rooted poorly in both labs. One RKN-resistant selection rooted very well but tested positive for SyV-1 and RSP viruses, so it will be forwarded to Foundation Plant Services for virus elimination; testing on this selection will resume after clean plant material becomes available. Four additional rootstock selections were added to the high priority list based on the performance of Syrah when grafted to those stocks. Cuttings from those four selections will be distributed to the cooperators for advanced testing.

Comparison of Crop Load Management Systems and Differential Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI) on Vegetative Compensation, Whole-Canopy Photosynthesis, and Vine Performance in Procumbent Vitis vinifera L. in a Warm Climate

A traditionally managed head-trained, cane-pruned Merlot/Freedom vineyard planted on a California sprawl trellis was converted either to a bi-lateral cordon spur pruned (HP) or single high-wire bi-lateral cordon mechanically pruned (SHMP) crop load management system. Two irrigation treatments were applied. Vineyard was irrigated as follows A control treatment of sustained deficit irrigation (SDI) at 0.8 of estimated ETc was applied from anthesis until harvest (EL Stage 38) with a mid-day leaf water potential (¥[1]) threshold of -1.2 MPa. A regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) treatment was applied at 0.8 ETc from anthesis to fruit set (EL Stage 28) with a ¥[1]  threshold of -1.2 MPa, 0.5 ETc from fruit set to veraison (EL stage 35) with a ¥[1]  threshold of -1.4 MPa and at 0.8 ETc from veraison until harvest with a ¥[1]  at -1.2 MPa. Irrigation treatments were not initiated until ¥l reached -1.0MPa for vines in the 0.8 Etc treatments. It took one season to convert and establish canopies that can be cropped. In 2014 the  vineyard was cropped. The SHMP treatment irrigated with the SDI irrigation method generated the largest canopy earlier and was the most efficient user of applied water to fix carbohydrates. Furthermore, this canopy also yielded the greatest with acceptable canopy architecture and microclimate variables for the warm climate. There were few statistically significant effects of crop load management treatments or irrigation methods applied on seed and skin flavonoids. The total berry skin anthocyanins were most affected by the HP and SDI treatments in the initial year of data collection. The preliminary results suggest that it would take one full growing season to convert traditional California sprawl canopies to a SHMP trellis. The resultant canopy is a more efficient user of applied water amounts to fix carbon with greater yields with similar berry skin phenolics. The study is providing important science-based information for California wine[i] grape growers on how best to manage traditional California sprawl canopies to a SHMP trellis. The resultant canopy is a more efficient user of applied water amounts to fix carbon with greater yields with similar berry skin phenolics. The study is providing important science-based information for California wine grape growers on how best to manage traditional vineyards in times declining resources such as labor and water.

Interactive Effects of Mechanical Leaf Removal Timing and Regulated Deficit Irrigation on Biosynthesis of Methoxypyrazines and Phenolics on a Procumbent Grapevine (Vitis vinifera cv. Merlot) in the San Joaquin Valley of California

An experiment was conducted in the San Joaquin Valley of California on Merlot to determine the interaction of mechanical leaf removal (control, pre-bloom, post-fruit set) and applied water amounts [sustained deficit irrigation (SDI) at (0.8) and regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) at 0.8 (bud break-fruit set) – 0.5 (fruit set-veraison) – 0.8 (veraison-leaf fall) of estimated vineyard evapotranspiration (ETc) on productivity and berry skin anthocyanin content, composition and its unit cost per hectare.  The pre-bloom leaf removal treatment consistently maintained at least 20{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} of photosynthetically active radiation in the fruit zone in both years of the study, while post-fruit set leaf removal was inconsistent across years.  The RDI treatments reduced berry mass, while the post-fruit set leaf removal treatment reduced berry skin mass. The pre-bloom treatment did not affect yield in either year.  Exposed leaf area and leaf area to fruit ratio (m2/kg) were reduced with leaf removal treatments.  The RDI treatment consistently advanced Brix in juice.  Anthocyanin concentration was improved with pre-bloom leaf removal in both years while irrigation treatments had no effect.  Proportion of acylated and hydroxylated anthocyanins were not affected by leaf removal treatments.  In both years SDI increased di-hydroxylated anthocyanins while RDI increased tri-hydroxylated anthocyanins.  Pre-bloom leaf removal when combined with RDI maximized total skin anthocyanins (TSA) per hectare while no leaf removal and SDI produced the least. The cost to produce one unit of TSA was reduced 35{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} with the combination of pre-bloom leaf removal and RDI treatments when compared to no leaf removal and SDI.  This study provides information to red wine grape growers in warm regions on how to manage fruit to enhance anthocyanin concentration and proportion of anthocyanin hydroxylation while reducing input costs through mechanization and reduced irrigation.

The majority of wine grapes grown in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) of California are used for bulk wine production.  Fruit used to make red wines from this region are characterized by low anthocyanin accumulation, and receive the lowest price per ton compared to other growing regions in the state. Approximately 34{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} of the Merlot grapes crushed in the state were grown in the SJV with an average grower return of $ 443/ton compared to $753/ton state average (Cal. Dept. Food. Agric. 2013).  In recent years more efforts have been directed towards applying principles of canopy management with the aid of vineyard mechanization and deficit irrigation practices (Kurtural et al. 2013; Terry and Kurtural 2011; Wessner and Kurtural 2013; Williams et al. 2012) to improve berry composition and grower returns per ton through enhancing the color profile of red wine grapes grown in the region.

Anthocyanins are synthesized via the flavonoid pathway in grapevine cultivars that harbor the wild-type VvmybA1 transcription factor for the expression of UDP-glucose:flavonoid 3-O-glucosyltransferase (UFGT) (Kobayashi et al. 2004).  The encoded enzyme UFGT catalyzes the glycosylation of unstable anthocyanidin aglycones into pigmented anthocyanins.  Two primary anthocyanins (cyanidin, delphinidin) are synthesized in the cytosol of the berry epidermis.  Cyanidin has a B-ring, di-hydroxylated at the 3’ and 4’ positions and delphinidin has a tri-hydroxylated B-ring because of an additional hydroxyl group at the 5’ position.  Flavonoid precursors are initially recruited from the phenylpropanoid pathway by chalcone synthases (CHS1, CHS2, and CHS3) and enter the flavonoid pathway.  Two parallel pathways downstream of flavonoid 3’-hydroxylase (F3’H) and flavonoid 3’,5’-hydroxylase (F3’5’H) (Castellarin et al. 2007) produce either cyanidin or delphinidin.  The 3’ position of cyanidin and delphinidin and sequentially the 5’ position of delphinidin are methoxylated by o-methyl-transferase (OMT) that generates peonidin, petunidin and malvidin, respectively (Castellarin et al. 2007).

The concentration and relative abundance of single and total anthocyanins are variable among red winegrape cultivars due to genetic control and developmental regulation.  However, there is general agreement in literature that when amount of diffuse light is increased (Dokoozlian and Kliewer 1995) or when an amelioration of microclimate temperature is associated with a concomitant increase in diffuse light quantity (Spayd et al. 2002), beneficial effects on total skin anthocyanin content of red wine grapes grown in hot climates are observed. Conversely, exposure of clusters to direct sunlight (Berqvist et al. 2001) or low sunlight with concomitant increase in berry temperature (Tarara et al. 2008) was shown to decrease anthocyanin accumulation, increase the proportion of 3’4’ hydroxylated anthocyanidins, and decrease the acylated anthocyanins contributing to total skin anthocyanins.  Cortell and Kennedy (2006) also reported a reduction of tri-hydroxylated anthocyanins in shade grown Pinot noir.  Therefore, the effect of sun exposure results from the interaction of several factors that are hardly uncoupled under vineyard conditions.

Leaf removal is a practice that can improve light transmittance into fruiting zone of the canopy (Diago et al. 2012; Poni et al. 2006; Wessner and Kurtural 2013; Williams 2012).  When leaf removal was applied pre-bloom it was shown to decrease berry set and hence grapevine yield, but improved total skin anthocyanin concentration of red wine grapes (Diago et al. 2012).  The results were used as a means of crop control with the increase in relative skin mass and reduction in yield per cluster being interpreted as the causal increase in anthocyanin concentration.  Therefore, since growers in SJV are paid in tons produced per hectare, previous work in the hot climate of SJV focused on post-fruit set, but was conducted pre-veraison in order to not adversely affect yield (Wessner and Kurtural 2013; Williams 2012). The leaf removal studies conducted in SJV resulted in improved photosynthetically active radiation exposure to canopy interior but no physiological gain for the cultivars studied, some deleterious effects were noted due to overexposure of clusters to direct solar radiation or vegetative compensation response (Geller and Kurtural 2012; Kurtural et al. 2013; Williams 2012).Water deficits were shown to consistently promote higher concentrations of anthocyanins in red wine grapes (Kennedy et al. 2002; Romero et al. 2010; Terry and Kurtural 2011).  However, there were conflicting results as to whether or not there were any direct effects on berry metabolism other than inhibition of berry growth.  It remained unclear if water deficits altered the biosynthetic pathway or if high anthocyanin concentrations resulted from elevated sensitivity of berry growth to water deficits.  Matthews and Anderson (1989) reported that growth of berries was inhibited more and concentrations of anthocyanin in berry skin and wine increased when water deficits were imposed before veraison rather than after veraison.  Similarly, Terry and Kurtural (2011) reported water deficits imposed one-week post-fruit set until veraison resulted in a 25{aed9a53339cdfc54d53cc0c4af03c96668ab007d9c364a7466e3349a91bf0a23} amelioration of total skin anthocyanins in central SJV.  Based on the observation of similar anthocyanin content per berry, Kennedy et al. (2002) and Terry and Kurtural (2011) concluded that post-veraison water deficits only inhibited fruit growth.

Gene expression studies investigating the regulation of anthocyanin biosynthesis in the grapevine concluded that both pre and post-veraison water deficits increased anthocyanin accumulation.  What is more, water deficits can progressively modify the canopy microclimate by defoliating the basal leaves subtending the fruiting zone, with greater exposure to solar radiation (Terry and Kurtural 2011; Williams 2012).  However, the increase in anthocyanin concentration observed in Merlot grapevines exposed to water deficits was determined not to be due to basal leaf defoliation and exposed solar radiation but was the direct result of water deficit.  Castellarin et al. (2007) reported that the increase in anthocyanin concentration in Merlot was not due to overexpression of FLS1 gene that is strongly correlated with cluster light exposure for flavonoid biosynthesis in the grapevine, but was due to up-regulation of flavonoid synthesis genes, in particular UFGT, CHS2, CHS3, and F3H.While canopy and crop load management studies (Geller and Kurtural 2012, Kurtural 2013; Terry and Kurtural 2011, Wessner and Kurtural 2013) and irrigation studies, particularly those implementing deficit irrigation, have been conducted in the coastal grape growing regions of California (Matthews and Anderson 1988; Williams 2010; 2014), no such studies have combined both factors on wine grapes cultivated in the hot climate of the SJV of California. The overachieving objective of this trial was to quantitatively increase the concentration of total skin anthocyanins of Merlot by investigating the interactive effects of manipulating solar radiation and water amounts applied in this hot climate. The specific objectives of the trial were to improve the light microclimate without adversely affecting yield components while simultaneously reducing applied water amounts to quantitatively and qualitatively improve the skin anthocyanin composition of Merlot in a resource limited environment.

The experiment was a three (leaf removal) × two (deficit irrigation) factorial with a split-plot design with four replicated blocks.  Three rows of 190 vines each comprised one block and four guard rows separated each block.  The three leaf removal treatments were randomly applied as main plot to three rows each.  Each main plot of three rows was split into two deficit irrigation treatments as sub-plot at random, in the geographic middle on the East-West axis of the vineyard.  Each experimental unit consisted of 285 vines of which 48 were sampled from an equi-distant grid per treatment-replicate.