In the previous blog (Watering grape vines) we spoke about what instruments you can use to determine the amount of water needed by the grape vine.

As mentioned in the article, you should maintain a good balance between the amount of water and oxygen in the soil, to ensure proper root development.  In this article, I want to discuss this point in more detail.

Soil is made up of both organic and inorganic substances. 

The organic matter consists of the decomposing rests of plants and animals and with and ideal soil temperature and moisture levels, the soil is inhabited by earthworms, insects and fungi. 

These living organisms, along with other plants, feed on the organic matter in the soil, that will in the end create humus and soluble nutrients.   This biological cycle continues as long as there is moisture and oxygen present in the soil.  This decomposing matter aerates the soil by occupying the gaps between the inorganic soil particles, increasing its water holding capacity.

The inorganic particles of soil are named by the size of the particle; sandy soils have the largest particles and clay, the smallest particle.

The moisture/water in soil from irrigating your vineyard will penetrate the soil through cracks and gaps between the inorganic particles in the soil.  This process will push the air out of the soil as air and water cannot use the same space.  Plant roots need oxygen to breathe and without the presence of enough oxygen, they plant will drown.

As the organic material decomposes, it will release carbon dioxide, which replaces some of the oxygen. The water in the soil dissolves the carbon dioxide, forming a weak acid, which, by reacting with the minerals in the soil forms compounds that the plants can use as food.  Therefore, oxygen is needed in the soil!

Plants also need nitrogen, which they cannot get directly from the atmosphere.  A complex process called nitrification takes place to make nitrates available to the roots of the grape vine – this is a vital stage in the nitrogen cycle.  As you can imagine, without air in the soil, this process cannot take place.

Plants also use oxygen for the respiration processes in their cells, which are the main source of energy for the plant – their metabolism running.  Grape vines are not very well adapted to withstand too wet conditions for prolonged periods of time; so over watering your grape vine in fact halts/slow down the metabolism of the grape vine.

Remember, when you plan your vineyard, it is good practice to correct the drainage and organic content of the soil, BEFORE you plant your grape vines. 

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