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Home HortScience Bromide Traces Nitrate Movement in Vineyards
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PROSSER, WA—Professionals in the wine grape industry have a good deal to gain from a study published by Washington State University researchers. The wine grape experts designed experiments to test how grape vines access nutrients and soil water, and say their research results can inform soil and tissue sampling approaches to improve vineyard management methods.

The study's lead author, Joan R. Davenport, a professor in Washington State's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, explained that additional information about water and nutrient movement in drip-irrigated vineyards is imperative for understanding grape vine canopy management. "Little research has been conducted in these environments to aid in the understanding of where the vine accesses nutrients and/or soil water and how that translates into soil and/or plant tissue sampling approaches," Davenport noted.

The scientists used bromide as a "tracer" for nitrate movement in regulated deficit drip-irrigated vineyards planted with 'Merlot' grapes located near Prosser, Washington. The study examined nitrate movement in the soils as well as into grape leaves. As the researchers had expected, bromide movement closely followed water movement.

"At 20 cm from the emitter, petiole Br was most closely related to Br concentration in the 0- to 15-cm depth in the east and northeast/southeast direction as well as 30- to 45-cm depth northeast/southeast," the report said. "At 40 cm distance, Br concentration at the 15- to 30-cm depth in the northeast/southeast direction was related with petiole Br concentration, whereas at 60 cm, there were nearly an equal number of significant relationships between tissue and soil Br concentration at all depths in the northeast/southeast direction."

The scientists said these confirmed relationships suggest that soil sampling for nitrate should be taken from a diagonal position between the vine and the emitter, between 20 and 60 cm from the drip line. They added that further research to determine the relationship between soil NO3-N concentration and vine performance is recommended to better assist the wine grape industry.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site:

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at


Original Article:

Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Bromide as a Nitrate Tracer in Deficit, Drip-irrigated Wine Grape Vineyards
Joan R. Davenport, Robert G. Stevens, Kelly M. Whitley, and Tanya Winkler
HortScience 46:291–295. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

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