Wine quality is the final outcome of the interactions within a vineyard between meteorological conditions, terrain and soil properties, plant physiology and numerous viticultural decisions, all of which are commonly summarized as the terroir effect. Associations between wine quality and a single soil or topographic factor are usually weak, but little information is available on the effect of terrain (elevation, aspect and slope) as a compound micro-terroir factor. We used the topographic wetness index (TWI) as a steady-state hydrologic and integrative measure to delineate management zones (MZs) within a vineyard and to study the interactions between vine vigor, water status and grape and wine quality. The study was conducted in a commercial 2.5-ha Vitis vinifera
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ vineyard in Israel. Based on the TWI, the vineyard was divided into three MZs located along an elongate wadi that crosses the vineyard and bears water only in the rainy winter season. MZ1 was the most distant from the wadi and had low TWI values, MZ3 was closest to the wadi and had high TWI values. Remotely sensed crop water stress index (CWSI) was measured simultaneously with canopy cover (as determined by normalized difference vegetation index; NDVI) and with field measurements of midday stem water potential (Ψstem
) and leaf area index (LAI) on several days during the growing seasons of 2017 and 2018. Vines in MZ1 had narrow trunk diameter and low LAI and canopy cover on most measurement days compared to the other two MZs. MZ1 vines also exhibited the highest water stress (highest CWSI and lowest Ψstem
), lowest yield and highest wine quality. MZ3 vines showed higher LAI on most measurement days, lowest water deficit stress (Ψstem
) during phenological stage I, highest yield and lowest wine quality. Yet, in stage III, MZ3 vines exhibited a similar water deficit stress (CWSI and Ψstem
) as MZ2, suggesting that the relatively high vigor in MZ3 vines resulted in higher water deficit stress than expected towards the end of the season, possibly because of high water consumption over the course of the season. TWI and its classification into three MZs served as a reliable predictor for most of the attributes in the vineyard and for their dynamics within the season, and, thus, can be used as a key factor in delineation of MZs for irrigation. Yet, in-season remotely sensed monitoring is required to follow the vine dynamics to improve precision irrigation decisions.
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