Drought Strategies for Grape Growing

Here is one truism of farming: Being prepared is always preferable to trying to fix an unexpected problem. Understanding the water needs of a grapevine is an important step to using as much supplemental irrigation in your small vineyard as needed, but not an amount that is either wasteful or actually reduces the quality of your backyard wine. There’s good news for winegrape growers in a drought! Grapevines are extraordinarily efficient in their use of water. Worldwide, it takes only a few gallons (liters) of water to produce a bottle of wine, while it takes more than 400 gallons (~1,500 L) of water to produce a pound of beef. Grape growers have an intrinsic advantage to exploit. So here’s the plan. Let’s just assume that nature will deal us a difficult hand in 2015 and we need to be prepared for another dry spring and summer. Our goals are to find the easiest and most cost-effective ways to set up and manage a vineyard that uses minimal water resources. To that end we should explore: • How a grapevine uses