DDD Conference

Prof. Cornelis van Leeuwen

Growing Vines in Dry Conditions: What Can We Learn from the Mediterranean Experience?

University of Bordeaux, France

Climate change will impose increasingly warm and dry conditions on vineyards. Wine quality and yield are strongly influenced by climatic conditions and depend on complex interactions between temperatures, water availability, plant material and viticultural techniques. In established winegrowing regions, growers have optimized yield and quality by choosing plant material and viticultural techniques according to local climatic conditions, but as the climate changes, these will need to be adjusted. Adaptations to higher temperatures include changing plant material and modifying viticultural techniques such that harvest dates are maintained in the optimal period (end of September or early October). Vineyards can be made more resilient to drought by planting drought resistant plant material, modifying training systems, or selecting soils with greater soil water holding capacity. While most vineyards in Europe are currently dry-farmed, irrigation may also be an option to grow sustainable yields under increasingly dry conditions but consideration must be given to associated impacts on water resources and the environment.

Mediterranean countries have always been exposed to warm and dry conditions. Considerable resources do exist in this area in terms of plant material and expertise to cope with these conditions. Until recently, these resources have been ignored by the scientific community and the mechanisms driving the heat and drought tolerance of Mediterranean varieties and training systems remain largely unknown. A better understanding of this plant material and cultivation practices would be particularly useful to adapt viticulture to the changing climatic conditions across all winegrowing regions in the world.

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