How much does vine transpiration increase during a heat wave?
To address that question, a team of Australian researchers led by Edwards reported the following observations in 2011.While working in a greenhouse with Cabernet Sauvignon, researchers generated a 2-day high-temperature event by imposing maximum daytime temperatures near 41°C. Before imposing the heat wave event contrasted deficit irrigation treatments had also been imposed. Authors observed that the combination of heat wave and soil moisture deficit created leaf loss and wilting compared to well-watered vines. Physiological measurements (like vine transpiration and photosynthesis) gave an insight to understand why damages occur.
First, researchers measured vine transpiration before the heat event. They found that a vine experiencing limited soil moisture supply used less water than a well watered vine. This is exactly what we would expect, based on our previous discussion (See article #3 of this serie). : Vine Transpiration ratio is lower than its maximal value (called Kcb) when soil moisture is limiting. Figure 1 shows a reduction in transpiration ratio when the vine is under deficit irrigation, while climatic demand is the same for both treatments.
Figure 1 : Leaf water use under saturating light ; no heat wave (adapted from Edwards et al, 2011)
Second, authors repeated the same measurements during the heat wave and they observed very different responses. The transpiration ratio increases more than 3 fold under well water conditions, while no increase is observed under deficit irrigation, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Leaf water use under saturating light ; under heat wave (adapted from Edwards et al, 2011)
Figure 2 illustrates that if soil moisture supply is non limiting during a heat event, then vine Transpiration ratio increases. However, under limiting soil moisture supply during a heat event, the Transpiration ratio does not increase.
Third, they compare photosynthetic activity variations for different transpiration levels. Researchers found that by increasing its transpiration, the vine maintains a similar level of Carbon assimilation even during heat wave. However, if transpiration does not increase during heat, not only leaf damages and wilting symptoms are observed, but a major collapse in leaf photosynthetic activity is also measured. In turn, the drop in photosynthetic activity can jeopardize fruit sugar accumulation.
- When a heat event happens, you should be ready to observe an increased Transpiration ratio, especially during the early season stages. If you do not observe an increase, you may assume that heat will increase leaf temperature while carbon assimilation collapses.
- Winemakers and vineyard managers need to carefully manage irrigation scheduling, to ensure that root systems have access to water and vines are actively transpiring prior to a heat event.
What is vine transpiration response to heat in field conditions?
Extrapolating from a pot experiment to the field is difficult because of various factors such as a greater root volume, a more important fruit load or a much higher vapor pressure deficit. However, we can use the concepts higlighted by Edwards and his team to improve irrigation practices in response to Transpiration ratio variations measured with sap flow sensors. We will discuss this in our next blog, stay tuned….