Improved Tissue Analysis Methods for Nitrogen Assessment of Wine

The limitations of petiole nitrate-N as a criteria for vine N status are widely recognized. The purpose of this study is to search for improved N tissue sampling and analytical methods which can be used for many wine cultivars under different growing conditions. Total-N and nitrate-N levels are being compared in leaf petiole and blade samples taken at bloom, veraison and harvest in 7 cultivars: French Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Ruby Cabernet, Barbera, Grenache, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the trial blocks are located at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center except for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon which are on the Central Coast. A wide range of N fertilizer treatment is being imposed in order to establish large differences in vine N status and plant response. Fertilizer treatment was initiated one year ahead of the beginning of data collection to provide carryover N in the vines. Significant differences in N determinations for each cultivar, tissue, and sampling stage from N fertilizer treatment were found, with the exception of bloom blade total N. This tissue and stage was not significantly different for total-N in 3 cultivars ? Barbera, Grenache, and Chenin Blanc. Thus, so far, this tissue has shown the least promise as an indicator of differences in N status. There was a tendency for the veraison and harvest samples to show greater significant differences in N status as compared to bloom sampling. As expected, nitrate-N showed the greatest range in values from the low to the high N treatments. However, total-N showed as much statistical separation as nitrate-N by the Duncan’s Multiple Range Test. This suggests that there are good possibilities in developing useful critical values for total-N, as well as the traditional nitrate-N. Also, petioles tend to show as good, if not better, statistical separation for total-N as compared with blades. This is encouraging, as it would be very useful to be able to use petioles rather than blades because of value of petiole samples for other nutrient determinations. Some vine yield and fruit composition components showed significant differences due to fertilizer treatment. This should provide the opportunity to correlate vine response with leaf tissue N values. Correlation and regression analyses will be performed after 2 full years of vine and laboratory data. The goal is to develop some tentative critical values for total-N and/or nitrate-N for important wine cultivars.