Measuring Leaf Water Potential in Wine Grapes

See this tutorial in video format on YouTube

There are two different methods of measuring water stress in wine grapes. The most popular method used in commercial vineyards is the Leaf Water Potential (LWP) method. The other method is called Stem Water Potential (SWP) and involves putting a foil laminate bag on the leaf for at least 10 minutes to allow the leaf to equilibrate with the vine. This tutorial demonstrates the LWP method.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

First, ensure readings are taken consistently within about 2 hours of solar noon.

This will change as these season progresses, but normally is about 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM on the Pacific Coast in the USA.

Select a vine for sampling. The vine to be sampled should be a good representative of the vineyard irrigation block.

Try not to sample at the end of a row, but move in at least 5 plants from the end of the row.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Select a leaf that is fully exposed to the sun. The leaf should be at least the 5th from the end of the tendril.

Leaf should be a healthy, fully expanded leaf with no insect holes, good color and no mildew.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Place a sandwich bag (pleated top not zip-loc) over the leaf.

This bag simply creates a micro-environment that slows transpiration during testing.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Roll the bag mouth closed around the petiole and cut with a razor blade or knife.

The reading should now be taken immediately. If you are interrupted during the process – discard the leaf and start
over.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Insert the petiole into the hole in the bottom side of the lid.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Twist the Compression Gland clock-wise to seal the gasket around the petiole.

The petiole should just be barely protruding from the lid.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Insert the leaf and bag together down into the chamber.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Push down and turn clockwise to lock the chamber lid in place.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

The instrument Rate Valve flow should be pre-set at about 1 Bar/ 2 seconds or slower.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Turn the Control Valve to “CHAMBER” and begin to pressurize the chamber.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

The end of the petiole should look dry at first.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

As the pressure in the chamber increases, there may be some bubbling of water in the phloem vessels.

This should be ignored and can be wiped away with your finger if it is distracting.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

The actual “end-point” or Leaf Water Potential is read when water comes to the surface of the end of the petiole.

This water will come from the center of the petiole.

In grapes there will actually be a slight color change in the surface as the water appears.

This is the “end-point”.

Immediately turn the Control Valve to the OFF position.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

As the pressure continues on the leaf, water will begin to bubble up from the center of the petiole out of the xylem vessels.

Measuring plant moisture stress in grapes

Record the amount of pressure that was required to push the water to the cut surface.

This is the Leaf Water Potential (LWP).

Some other things to remember when taking measurements in the vineyard:

  • Three readings per irrigation block are recommended.
  • Extending readings past the two hour window of solar noon will create readings that are not comparable from day to day.
  • Recording air temp, humidity, wind speed and any other relevant weather changes will help correlate changes in readings from day to day and make irrigation scheduling decisions easier.
  • Ensure you pay close attention to the end-point. Not stopping the pressure right when the water appears will create an error in the reading.
  • Testing without a plastic sandwich bag can create differences as great as 2 bar in the readings.

We want to thank Dana Zaccone at Geovit Vineyard Services in Napa, California for helping us to shoot this tutorial. THANKS!

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