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Agriculture and food
Partial Rootzone Drying
method for improving fruit quality by using less water

Water is becoming an increasingly precious resource. Environmental problems such as salinity and poor river quality indicate that we need to manage water use much better.

A group of scientists based in Adelaide has developed a method for producing grapes and other fruits using half the usual amount of water. The technique is called partial rootzone drying (PRD). Water is applied to only one side of a grapevine for two weeks, then to the other side for two weeks, and this continues throughout the growing season.

The vine reacts as though it is drying out, but water still reaches all parts of the plant. The method results in fewer shoots and less leaf area on the vine, but the fruit continues to grow. Experimental and commercial trials have shown that there is no reduction in the amount of fruit produced even though the amount of water used was halved. Some trials have also shown that the quality of the grapes and wine is improved.

Dr Peter Dry from the University of Adelaide and Dr Brian Loveys from CSIRO Plant Industry, who jointly developed the technique, have also tried it on citrus, pears and peaches with very promising results. Vineyards in most regions of Australia, NZ, Spain, Israel, the USA and South Africa have evaluated the technique. In 1999 a 70 ha vineyard in Lodi, California, was planted and completely operated with PRD.

As water use is restricted in the future, we will need better irrigation and higher water efficiency for agriculture. The partial rootzone drying technique means that we can reduce the amount of water used for the same quality and quantity of produce. Unfortunately for the inventors, the technique can?t be patented and they don?t gain any commercial reward.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
University of Adelaide

CSIRO Plant Industry
Key People
Dr Peter Dry : research and development
Dr Brian Loveys : research and development

Further Reading
Ascent Technology Magazine
Sep 1998 p 11-12

University of Adelaide Dept Horticulture, Viticulture and Oenology
CSIRO Plant Industry
Landline 27/2/00
ATSE, Irrigation technologies for wine grapes

Questions & Activities
Partial Rootzone Drying

Dr Peter Dry and South African PhD student Keren Bindon inspect vines at Adelaide University?s Waite Campus, where PRD was first trialled. Courtesy Adelaide University Media.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum