The Critical Importance of Sampling Soil, Water & Tissue in Grape Production
Understanding the physical and chemical properties of the soil and water in which we grow our vines is of critical importance for effective management of inputs and the diagnosis/anticipation of potential issues. Measuring the nutrient values in grape tissue allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our fertility programs and identify areas for improvement. Following a regular sampling schedule allows us to not only gather data for that season but also observe trends year over year which helps guide soil and water treatment programs. Helena’s AGRIntelligence® program provides consultants and growers with industry-leading tools for the evaluation of soil, water and tissue with HyGround®, AquaLenz® and Extractor® sampling reports.
Soil sampling is the key first step, whether you are developing a new vineyard, replanting a block, or developing your yearly fertility budget/program. Helena recommends sampling the soil every 2-3 years to establish new baselines for soil nutrient and salinity values. However, after the rains and flooding of the 2022-2023 rainy season, pulling a spring soil sample is also recommended because water soluble elements were most likely leached further down in the soil profile. Choosing the correct sampling location will also help give the most accurate picture possible. Utilizing Helena’s HyGround soil mapping system helps growers identify changes in the soil profile and creates soil management zones for Smart Sampling, rather than just taking random samples in the field. Once samples are pulled and georeferenced, results are uploaded into our agronomy platform, AI360®, and stored for easy access throughout the season. Our agronomists take the soil sample results and use them to build prescriptive grape fertility programs, nitrogen management programs, soil salinity management programs, and much more.
As we know, water is the largest input in most grape operations, and it ties all aspects of crop production together by playing a key role in nutrient management, irrigation efficiency, salinity management, and pesticide efficacy. Helena’s AquaLenz water sample reports address all these issues in a simple, easy-to-understand report. Water reports can be very complex and interpretation is often difficult. AquaLenz simplifies this process by highlighting the problem areas (salinity, nitrogen, bicarbonates, pH, etc.) and recommending solutions. Growers should take a water sample every season, especially if they are using ground water sources because water chemistry can change from year to year.
Tissue sampling is the final key component in grape production. Soil and water samples tell us what’s in “the bank”. Tissue samples tell us what the plant is actually able to withdraw. Helena recommends a minimum of two tissue samples to be taken over the course of the season. The first should be taken at pre-bloom, from the leaf opposite the basal cluster. The second should be taken when the berries are BB size, from the first mature leaf on the shoot. Taking whole leaves (petiole + blade) is encouraged, but there are also petiole-only and blade-only tests. Helena’s Extractor tissue reporting system is similar to our AquaLenz reports. Extractor takes tissue sample data and presents it in an easy-to-understand report that highlights deficiencies and recommends solutions. These reports are stored in our AI360 system for future use and comparison.
To learn more about the importance of sampling in grape production and develop a Grape Wise™ program, contact your local Helena Representative.
- Paul W. Crout, CCA, PCA, Helena Senior Product Manager and Agronomist