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The pedo-climatic and farm characteristics of Bari’s hinterland have allowed for the diffusion of prestigious table viticulture. The typical “tendone” vineyard structure is set up after managing the surface of the soil. The karstic nature of the region and the thermo-rainfall trend during the vegetative season impede the vineyard from producing adequately without irrigation. Given the importance of water contributions to table grapes, it is necessary to correctly measure the water variables for economic and environmental reasons. Farmers often irrigate according to “fixed” turns and volumes, against the rules of “good irrigation practice” which consider monitoring the water status of the soil or plant as a prerequisite of irrigation scheduling. During this experiment, two methods of irrigation management were compared: “fixed-turn” and “on demand”. For “on demand” irrigation, the irrigation volume is calculated on the basis of the soil water status (estimated according to the “water balance” method described in the “Paper n. 56 FAO”) and the irrigation is scheduled on the basis of the experimental relationship between “pre-dawn” leaf water potential and the water available in the soil. For this comparison, data from a 2-year “on farm” experimentation, in an area typical of table grape cultivation in Southern Italy, have been used. The results obtained show that, in respect to the “fixed-turn” management, the “on demand” management allows for a 20% reduction in water volumes, without compromising production. The water balance method proved to be a promising criterion for irrigation scheduling in these shallow soils, rich in stones (litho-soils). This only held true when the depth of the soil layer explored by the root system was defined by the “equivalent depth” and not by the actual soil’s depth.
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