Villa Maria is using a 'pressure chamber' to better identify the need for irrigating its HB vineyards. The device measures how hard the vine is working to draw water from the ground. This provides a more accurate measure of water need than measuring soil moisture which is the more traditional method being used.
The pressure chamber effectively asks the plant how thirsty it is, allowing water to be applied only when the plant needs it. Applying too much water leads to dilute flavours, lower quality, excessive growth and higher vine management costs, whereas providing water only as the vines need it encourages deeper rooting, making the vine more resilient. This increases fruit quality, lowers management costs and saves water in the process!
Future Farming Trust's John van der Linden reports: On one block, we saved 80% of the water that we would have normally used and this was in the drought year of 2013!