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Irrigation practices, nutrient applications, and mulches affect soil nutrient dynamics in a young Merlot (Vitis vinifera L.) vineyard

Hannam, K. D., G. H. Neilsen, T. A. Forge,D. Neilsen, I. Losso, M. D Jones, C. Nichol and M. M. Fentabil,. 2016. NRC Research Press


There is growing interest among commercial wine grape (Vitis vinifera L.) growers in reducing water and fertilizer consumption, but little information exists on how best to combine conservative irrigation and soil management practices in the vineyard. In a 3-year-old Merlot vineyard in the semi-arid Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, the interactive effects of resource-conserving micro-irrigation (drippers or microsprinkers), nutrient applications (fertigation or compost), and surface mulching (wood and bark chips) on nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) dynamics in the wetted zone of surface soils were examined throughout the growing season using ion-exchange resins. Treatment differences in soil carbon and major nutrient pools, temperature, and moisture were also measured. Higher NO3--N was adsorbed by resins buried under drippers than under microsprinklers except in mulched plots, where NO3--N was uniformly low. By enhancing soil carbon availability and moderating soil microclimate, surface mulches may have promoted microbial immobilisation of N. Compost applications increased soil ortho-P levels, especially on mulched plots, suggesting that both P inputs (from compost) and enhanced microbial biomass (from mulch) promoted soil P cycling. Future work will examine the interactive effects of these resource-efficient practices on leaching losses, greenhouse gas emissions, crop productivity, and fruit quality.

Key Words

micro-irrigation, nitrogen, phosphorus, compost, mulch, wine grapes