Chapter 11

Grapevine Water Management

Vineyard Irrigation Systems

Irrigation systems are a major investment; systems should be carefully planned and designed. Factors such as soil type, soil depth, effective rooting zone of the vines, vine density, water quality, land formation and economic factors such as the capital and operating costs, will all play a role in deciding the irrigation system. Irrigation systems should encourage vine growth while minimizing soil erosion, and water loss. Losses of water will occur due to evaporation, wind drift, run-off and water (and nutrients) sinking deep below the root zone. Irrigation systems for grapevines fall into several categories. Overhead sprinkler systems spray water into the air above the vines in a broadcast pattern. Flood or furrow irrigation systems that use gravity to distribute surface water to precision-graded vineyards. Under-the-vine irrigation systems are with drip or micro sprinkler. No single irrigation system is the solution for all vineyard situations; otherwise there would not be such a range of systems still available. An overview of irrigation system options for vineyards follows.

Overhead Sprinkler Irrigation

Overhead sprinkler irrigation is an irrigation system in which water is distributed throughout the vineyard by the aid of high-pressure overhead sprinklers mounted on high permanent standpipes that clear the tops of vines (See Figure 11.3).

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is sometimes called trickle irrigation and involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates from a system of small diameter plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers (See Figure 11.4). Drip emitters come in two basic configurations: compensating and non-compensating.

Furrow Irrigation

Finally, with furrow irrigation, water is diverted from a main ditch generally into a channel running on either side of each row, or sometimes into a single central channel (See Figure 11.5).

Micro-sprinkler Irrigation

Micro-sprinkler irrigation systems are very similar to drip irrigation systems except that, rather than discharging water at discreet points, the water is sprayed out through a small sprinkler device (See Figure 11.6). These microsprinklers are typically made of plastic and are available in a multitude of flow rates and spray patterns.

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