Assessment of grape yield and composition using the reflectance based Water Index in Mediterranean rainfed vineyards
In rainfed vineyards water deficits play a major role in determining berry yield and composition. Therefore, reliable indicators of vine water status might be of great value for the optimization of grape yield and quality. In the present study the feasibility of using hyperspectral reflectance indices related to plant biophysical properties at predicting berry yield and quality attributes in rainfed vineyards is assessed. The study was conducted on Vitis vinifera cv. Chardonnay in commercial vineyards in the D.O. Penedès region (Catalonia, Spain) over two consecutive years (2007–2008). Field measurements of fractional intercepted Photosynthetic Active Radiation (fIPAR), canopy reflectance, predawn water potential (Ψp) and the canopy to air temperature difference at midday (ΔTmidday) were conducted at the stage of veraison. Yield, Total Soluble Solids (TSS), Titratable Acidity (TA) and the ratio TSS/TA (maturation index, IMAD) were determined at harvest. Contrasted water availability among vineyards prompted considerable variation in berry yield and quality attributes. Across years, higher yield was accompanied by higher TA (r = 0.59, p < 0.01) and lower IMAD (r = − 0.63, p < 0.01) while no significant relationship was observed between yield and TSS. Yield was related to canopy vigor (fIPAR) in a variable extend: in 2007, yield was positively related to fIPAR (r = 0.71, p < 0.05) while yield was found to decrease along with increasing fIPAR in 2008 (r = − 0.62, p < 0.05). Contrastingly, NDVI provided consistent estimates of yield across years (r = 0.57, p < 0.05). These results suggest that NDVI might be more appropriate to characterize the effects of varying water availability on yield than fIPAR. In addition, yield was found to be related to ΔTmidday (r = − 0.63 and r = − 0.66, in 2007 and 2008, respectively). Accordingly, the Water Index (WI), an indicator of vine water status, provided robust estimates of yield across years (r = 0.61, p < 0.01). The strength of the correlation between NDVI and WI vs. yield suggests that yield was influenced by changes in both leaf area (intercepted light) and photosynthesis (stomatal aperture) in a variable extent according to the timing and severity of water deficits in the years of study. Berry quality attributes did not show significant relationships against fIPAR but were related to ΔTmidday. Accordingly, NDVI did not show significant correlation with berry quality attributes, while WI was found to be consistently related to TA (r = 0.70, p < 0.01) and IMAD (r = − 0.71, p < 0.01) across years. The results obtained suggest that the WI might provide reliable estimates of berry quality attributes in vineyards experiencing moderate to severe water deficits with potential application in precision viticulture activities such as selective harvesting according to grape quality attributes as well as for ripening assessment.