Water is a valuable and limited resource for grapegrowers. This page provides a wide range of resources to help growers use their water most effectively, achieving yield and quality targets despite seasonal fluctuations in water availability.
Vineyard water use efficiency (WUE) describes the relationship between production (e.g. tonnes of grapes) and the amount of water used to grow the crop (e.g. megalitres). Reducing water use without compromising yield or quality will increase WUE and improve total vineyard profitability. Developing and maintaining a water management plan, as well as using a seasonal water budget will help growers optimise WUE. The following article describes methods for measuring WUE at different scales:
- Medrano, H,. Flexas, J., Ribas-Carbo, M., Gulias, J. 2010. Measuring water use efficiency in grapevines. Delrot, S., Medrano, H., Or, E., Baveresco, L., Grando, S. (eds.) Methodologies and results in grapevine research. Dordrecht: Springer.
A successful water management plan provides information about current and projected (5-10 years) water use and water security (availability, quality and costs). It also provides information about where water use efficiency improvements can be made to help growers prioritise and allocate funding to the activities. The resources linked below provide information on developing a water management plan and making decisions about where the most effective improvements can be made in a vineyard.
- How to start irrigating with less water (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- Managing grapevines with less water in the Mallee (Agriculture Victoria fact sheet)
- Managing farm water supplies (Agriculture Victoria)
- Water management for wine grapes in a drying environment (PDF)
- Water management strategy – an update of the Murray Darling basin and combating low winter rainfall (AWRI webinar 16 May 2019)
- An introduction to Regulated Deficit Irrigation (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- Limitations of Regulated Deficit Irrigation (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- Scheduling Regulated Deficit Irrigation (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- Varietal responses to Regulated Deficit Irrigation (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- Warming and water deficit effects on Shiraz grapes and wine (AWRI webinar 11 November 2016)
- Redirecting rain to manage soil salinity (AWRI webinar 5 May 2016)
- Sustainable salinity management in Australian vineyards (Wine Australia fact sheet)
- Post-harvest care of grapevines irrigation and nutrition (Wine Australia fact sheet – PDF download)
A water budget predicts how much water will be required to achieve the desired result (vine health, yield and quality targets) and when water is expected to be used during the season. The budgeted water use is compared with the actual water use regularly throughout the season to assess if the current water management plan is appropriate or whether more or less water is required.
- Irrigation budgeting (AWRI webinar 3 September 2020)
- SARDI water budgeting tool (Excel spreadsheet available on request from the AWRI helpdesk firstname.lastname@example.org or (08) 8313 6600)
Irrigation water quality affects vine and soil health, as well as the performance of irrigation systems. Some important factors to consider include pH, chloride, suspended solids, hardness, sodium absorption ratio, electrical conductivity, biological oxygen demand, heavy metals, and other contaminants. Testing is necessary to ensure irrigation water is compatible with crop and irrigation system requirements.
- Effects of irrigating with saline water on soil structure (Agriculture Victoria webpage)
- Water quality and testing resources (DPI NSW webpage)
- Managing farm water supplies resources (Agriculture Victoria webpage)
The design, installation and maintenance of irrigation systems has a significant influence on water use efficiency. Some important factors to consider when designing an irrigation system include soil type, grape variety and rootstock, yield and quality targets, delivery method, the capacity of system to deliver the appropriate volume of water within the appropriate timeframe, and the system layout. Monitoring for leaks and losses should be conducted regularly to identify and manage problems early. Regular maintenance is required to prevent problems and improve the operation and longevity of any irrigation system. The resources linked below provide information about measuring soil characteristics that affect water relations as well as information about designing and maintaining irrigation systems for vineyards and agriculture.
- How to measure water infiltration rate (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- How to measure rooting depth (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- Monitoring and maintaining your drip irrigation system (DPI NSW fact sheet)
- Irrigation system design resources (Agriculture Victoria webpage)
Irrigation scheduling refers to when and how much water is applied (i.e. the frequency and duration of irrigation applications). Good scheduling should meet the vines’ water requirements, avoiding over or under irrigating, to achieve yield and quality targets.
- How to monitor soil moisture (AWRI Research to Practice viti-note)
- Soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling resources (Agriculture Victoria webpage)
- Choosing the right soil moisture monitoring device (Agriculture Victoria webpage)
- Soil water monitoring and irrigation scheduling resources (DPI NSW webpage)
- Monitoring vine water status part 1 (DPI NSW PDF)
- Monitoring vine water status part 2 (DPI NSW PDF)
- Automated weather stations case study (DPI NSW PDF)
- Smart phone assessment of water stress in vineyards (AWRI webinar 2 November 2017)
Effective storage dam design, installation, monitoring and maintenance has a significant influence on water use efficiency. Monitoring for leaks and seepage should be conducted regularly to identify and manage problems early. Regular maintenance should be conducted to prevent problems and improve the operation and longevity of the storage.
- Agriculture Victoria irrigation resources
- Dixon, R. 2021. Getting the most out of your water. The importance of irrigation system efficiency. Aust. N.Z. Grapegrower Winemaker (691): 40-42, 44-45.
- DPI NSW irrigation resources
- Giddings, J. 2014. Drip irrigation : a grapegrower’s guide, Sydney: NSW Agriculture: 123 p. This book provides growers with practical vineyard-specific information about installing and maintaining a drip irrigation system and scheduling drip irrigation and can be requested from the AWRI’s library.
- Heatwave management information pack
- Irrigating Agriculture resources
- Irrigation (Viticare on farm trial manual)
For further information or assistance, please contact the AWRI helpdesk on email@example.com or (08) 8313 6600.