The Role of Rootstocks in Building More Resilient Vineyards | Local News

“You can drive around and probably see a lot of vineyards replanting right now, and it’s because of the market, but it’s an opportunity for people,” said Matthiasson. “Nurseries sell much more drought tolerant rootstocks than they normally do, and that can be a big change because for the life of these vineyards they will use less water.”

On his own vineyard, Matthiasson planted rootstocks that are more resistant to drought than is generally justified for the type of soil. These stronger rootstocks require less water and will therefore require less irrigation than before.

“There are other things you can do with row orientation and soil preparation so that the vineyard uses less water,” he said, “But the vineyards planted 15 years ago -25 years had not gone through these droughts so low, larger rootstocks were more in vogue.

So while you can change the irrigation strategy, drive the roots deeper into the ground, compost, plant a cover crop, or set up shade cloths to save water in a vineyard, it all comes down to how easily your plants can access the amount of Goldilockian water, which in itself comes down to the physiology of the vine.

Dr Megan Bartlett of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at UC-Davis focuses much of her research on what makes a drought tolerant rootstock, as it is very difficult to tell in advance whether a rootstock will have these characteristics.

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