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January 28, 2015

Comments

Mike

Very interesting article. But also remember that these vines are planted on grafted (phylloxera-resistant) rootstock and different rootstock have different growth patterns quite naturally. For example rootstock derived from Vitis riparia are naturally shallow-rooted and in the wild this species flourishes in fertile soil and in areas with high water tables, river banks etc. Rootstocks derived from Vitis rupestris, on the other hand, normally root very deeply and in the wild they flourish in areas where soil is low in nutrients. These vitis species have evolved to suit their environment and form their roots accordingly. They also differ in their affect on vine vigour, resistance to disease and nutrient take-up in a complicated interaction with the soil. Vine growers use them as rootstock and (should) make their choice of rootstock based on a study of the above. Sometimes a vine grower will use different types of rootstock in the same vineyard, just as (say) a grower of Pinot Noir will grow several different strains in the same vineyard as an 'insurance policy' against disease, or to spread out the harvest dates, or to gain complexity in the wine. So it is possible to see both types of rootstock perhaps in the same vineyard for various reasons.

Mark Thomasseau

Excellent post! The race to the bottom - greed! Will backfire for them! But in the process, national treasures will be lost!
Here in Washington State we are just beginning to reap the benefits of vineyards with age, cared for naturally, having some character, having something to say! I hope we continue to listen to your warnings and protect our own treasures!

Bert

Very good point Mike, I left the issue of the different types of rootstocks on the side, and they count so much in the way the vine will behave. Growers who are trying to improve their vineyard have often told me that they favored rootstocks that were less productive, they has less volume of grapes but of better quality.

Greed is indeed the engine in many of these bad choices, Mark, and that's sad that the goverments and European institutions encourage that, especially that at the end, the price of these mass-produced wines of generic varietals they're encouraging will drop even further...

Dean Alexander

Hi, I've been doing a little research (I mean a little) on vine roots, and I think I have at least one or two alternate explanations for your horizontal verse vertical root growth. First, cultivated clonal selections have a more highly divided rootsystem than no grafted vines which have a tap root that goes down vertically like the vine on the right - but are prone to phylloxera. The clonal selections have a "main framework roots" that goes down no more than 13 or so inches and can grow very thick. From these, the permanent root system grows, quite horizontally with it's spreaders, typically 4-6 feet from the trunk, but have been known to grow 30 feet away if necessary, but also sends down 'sinkers'. From the permanent roots grow the absorbing roots, which continually are grown and die off (like hairs on your head) gaining the nutrients the vine needs for growth. These all exist in the first 80 cm (around 2.5 feet).

Bert

Thank you very much for this contribution, this sheds light of another explanation for these roots shaping, I had also thought in a corner of my mind that indeed rootstock could play a role, as different rootstocks may behave differently in their rooting structure. If given the opportunity I'll ask the grower if he knows about the clone/rootstock type of these two vines.

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