Nitrogen as fertilizer in the vineyard
Nitrogen (N) plays a major role in all grapevine physiological processes. It is considered as a macronutrient, as it is required in larger amounts than the other mineral nutrients. It controls plant vigor and its absorption by the roots is dependent on the availability of water. A nitrogen deficient grapevine will not grow well, forming short inter-nodes, chlorotic (yellow) leaves and will produce less fruits with a reduced grape N content and possible delayed maturation.
Whereas nitrogen must be available to grant an adequate growth and photosynthesis, in viticulture too much nitrogen is also detrimental. Excess vigor leads to an extended vegetative growth period and competition with grape ripening. In addition, denser canopies and higher N content in leaves can increase vulnerability to fungal diseases.
In addition to controlling vegetative vigor, nitrogen affects the composition of grapes and the activity of yeast during winemaking. Indeed, nitrogen is a key yeast nutrient needed to carry out a successful fermentation and its presence as part of complex N-compounds in musts can affect the aromatic quality of wine.
All these functions make it difficult to control and to manage nitrogen fertilization in the best way. Since 2021, Vintel N-Expert by ITK provides a monitoring and forecasting service that can be used on a large scale to make the best decisions concerning N fertilization in a quick and cost-effective way to attain production goals.
How do you know how much nitrogen is needed by your vineyard?
Fertilization is a regular practice for vinegrowers, and one which demands a particular expertise to attain the optimal balance between vigor and grape composition.
This expertise is even more relevant in a world that is more and more concerned with soil and environmental preservation. Indeed, wine growers are becoming increasingly aware of the detrimental effects of excess nitrogen leaking into the environment, causing water pollution and eutrophication. For this reason, over the past decades, the application of N in vineyards has been reduced with the aim of adjusting vigor and yield while preserving the environment.
In the last decades cover cropping has made its come-back in many vineyards, after a long period in which it was abandoned, as it was considered harmful for production. Indeed, whereas using cover crops have several benefits, ranging from soil protection to the control of yield, in vineyards with low vigor, there is a concern of excessive competition for N resources with vines . In these cases, N-fertilizer application needs to be tailored to suit grapevines needs while considering the type of cover crop and its practices.
All these factors need to be considered when creating the nitrogen (N) management plan, to make the best use of N fertilizers. To conceive such plans it is very helpful to monitor vine N status and have a global vision of all the elements affecting its balance in the vineyard. A decision support tool (DST) like Vintel N-Expert can provide these data in real time so that nitrogen management becomes easy and effective.
Vintel N-expert predicts nitrogen availability
The new service within the Vintel DST, N-expert boosts growers insight into the nitrogen status of their vineyard, informing decision-making.
This powerful solution makes it possible to visualize nitrogen stress and measure the impacts of nitrogen inputs on vine growth during the production season. And off-season it helps adjust nitrogen application so that vines maximise their reserves and can re-start growth adequately. Because Vintel N-expert considers the soil-plant water balace, it allows to apply fertilizer in the right amount to avoid leaking or wash out. Moreover, the system provides a long term weather forecast ranging several months in the future, that can help planning N purchase and application in the long term.
A nitrogen expert for winery management by the side of growers
Vintel N-expert calculates daily nitrogen demands and consumption by plants, depending on nitrogen soil stocks, fertilizer application, cover cropping and other vineyard practices, and weather. This is possible because at the heart of Vintel N-expert there are agronomic models of soil water balance, nitrogen mineralization and nitrogen allocation whose output provides an instant picture of your vineyard N status. Soil nitrogen dynamics over time are displayed through easy-to-interpret detailed graphs. Long term weather forecasts allow to simulate the in season evolution of vineyard nitrogen, for a better planning of N-fertilizer applications.
Vintel N-expert is a complete tool for the management of nitrogen allowing growers to :
- Visualise the peaks of nitrogen consumption in their vineyard for the ongoing season.
- Know when plants are stressed and consuming their own nitrogen reserves so to avoid their depletion
- Compare different fertilization strategies to see what is their potential impact over plant nitrogen and soil stocks
- Select the best cover crop for your vineyard and optimize its management (type, planting date, removal date etc)
- Analyse the use of nitrogen in your vineyard after harvest. Is there sufficient N for building adequate plant stocks?
- Maximise the effectiveness of N applications by considering present and future water availability in the soil
- Save money by applying just the right amount of fertilizer at the right moment.
- Preserve soil and environmental resources by avoiding excess N application and N leak into the environment
Agronomist and scientific editor