Feb 4, 2021
While grape production does not require extensive water use and the majority of vineyards in the Pacific North West are drip irrigated, drought conditions in recent years have led growers to seek more efficiencies to reduce water use. Pete Jacoby, Professor of Crops and Soil Sciences at Washington State University knows that in a traditional drip irrigated vineyard, water is lost through evaporation plus plants loose about 90 percent of the water they take up through transportation. Most sub-surface micro-irrigation is done with buried lines which are easily clogged in fine silty loam soils or damaged by rodents. So, he is partnering with commercial grower sto test a different sub-surface irrigation system - vertically placed PVC pipe.
By placing pipes at one, two, three, and four feet, the experiment tested water reduction from 60 percent all the way down to 15 percent of what was typically delivered through above ground irrigation. Researchers discovered that this changed the vine root architecture from 18 inches all the way down to two and three feet. Plus, grape quality could be sustained with significantly lower water applications. Using these promising results, Pete is now testing white varieties and how sub-surface micro-irrigation impacts nutrient management.
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