Published in HortScience, Volume 47, Issue 10, October 1, 2012, pages 1520-1524.
Regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) is a management strategy that on grape can improve shoot/fruit ratio, water efficiency, and wine quality but has the potential to reduce yield. As part of a study on the influence of RDI on leafhopper density, we evaluated the effects on grape yield, berry size, berry soluble solids, and wine color. The studies were conducted at commercial vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley and in the Paso Robles region, CA, with Cabernet Sauvignon as the cultivar. Water deficits were imposed at either 50% (moderate deficit) or 25% (severe deficit) of standard irrigation (the control) for a period of 3 or 6 weeks and initiated at berry set, leafhopper egg hatch, or veraison. Deficit irrigation decreased berry weight by 16.1% at the San Joaquin Valley site (Aliso) and 11.7% at one of the Paso Robles sites (Frankel) but did not differ at the other site (Steinbeck). Yield was decreased by the deficits by 18.1% at Aliso, 26.7% at Frankel 2001 (but not 2002), and 24% at Steinbeck. Wine color density was increased by 21.8% at Aliso, 34.4% at Frankel 2001 (but not 2002), and did not differ at Steinbeck. Soluble solids did not differ among treatments at any site. There was no difference in berry weight, yield, or color between the moderate and severe deficits. It appears that in central California, RDI such as these are likely to reduce yield but are only one factor among many variables affecting quality such as wine color.