The use of irrigation in Viticulture is considered as a standard practice, and it is performed mainly during drought periods as an effective means for regulating water availability to grapevines. Grape development and ripening have been extensively studied, both in terms on the factors involved in fruit growth and the evolution of primary and secondary metabolites (Ribereau-Gayon 1975, Possner and Kliewer 1985, Coombe 1987, Iland and Coombe 1988, Gutierrez-Granda and Morrison 1992, Ollat et al. 2002). The influence of water supply on plant development and physiology has been widely described in the literature (Smart et al. 1974, Hardie and Considine 1976, Becker and Zimmermann 1984, Van Zyl 1984, Matthews et al. 1987, McCarthy 1997, Ojeda et al. 2001, 2002).

The supply of mineral elements affects the plant's development and physiology, with a balanced mineral supply being paramount in the vineyard to avoid excessive vigour or mineral deficiency, both needed to sustain the plant's equilibrium. An understanding of the mineral nutrition of vines depends on information from numerous scientific disciplines. Physiologically, the definition must be broadened to include the selective acquisition of these materials from the environment and its internal distribution to places where it is needed (Clark-son and Hanson 1980). Grape berry growth is supported by imports of carbohydrates, water and mineral nutrients. The description of these imports provides some information about the compounds required to support berry development.

K.A. Roubelakis-Angelakis (ed.), Grapevine Molecular Physiology & Biotechnology, 2nd edn., 53 DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-2305-6_3, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

It also increases understanding of the physiological mechanisms underlying these imports (Ollat et al. 2002).

Grape berry mineral composition is also important in that it is involved in wine chemical composition. From a technological point of view, potassium influences the pH of musts and wines and thereby their chemical and microbiological stability, in addition to the perception of wine flavour (Hale 1977, Morris et al. 1983, Doneche and Chardonnet 1992, Gutierrez-Granda and Morrison 1992, Mpelasoka et al. 2003). Grape berry mineral composition also plays a role in fruit development. Calcium deficiency in fleshy fruit can cause physiological disorders such as bitter-pit in apples, blossom-end rot in tomatoes, tip-burn in strawberries, or watercore in melons (Shear 1975, Odet and Dumoulin 1993, Wills et al. 1998).

The calcium content of grape-berry skins is also linked to the fruit's resistance to pathogenic bio-aggressors (Chardonnet and Doneche 1995). Furthermore, deficiencies in phosphorus, zinc, manganese and molybdenum result in a reduction of fruit set and a deficiency in potassium results in unevenly ripened berries (Mullins et al. 1996). Potassium may be involved in the translocation of solutes into the berry through its roles in phloem loading and unloading (Lang 1983). According to Mullins et al. (1996), potassium is associated with apoplas-tic sugar transport. Sugars are the principal solutes accumulated in grapes during the second period of berry growth, and as compounds that are as mobile as they are abundant, they may be regarded as important constituents in osmotic control, notably in situations of low soluble sugar accumulation (Mpelasoka et al. 2003). Other mineral elements such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese and phosphate also play a role in osmotic balance. The latter, however, are minor contributors given their low concentrations in the grape, in addition to their low mobility (Mpelasoka et al. 2003).

Even though the scope of this review is somewhat more restricted than its title suggests, original results are presented with regards to the current knowledge about the flux of mineral nutrients and the modifications source-sink relationships in which they are acquired and accumulated by berry growth and ripening.

Broadly, the approach which we have adopted in the present review has been to ask the following questions about berry mineral nutrient accumulation: How are nutrients transported by the sieves within the vascular system of the plant? How effectively are nutrients accumulated on a 'whole berry' level? How are nutrients partitioned inside the berry? We shall be considering two important, but not frequently reviewed aspects of the subject: the influence of vine water status and ratio leaf area/fruit.

The results presented in this review come from an original study on the accumulation of potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium in berries on vines submitted to different water status treatments. This study was carried out during the 2006 season on young (4 year old) vines of Grenache Noir (clone 134) grafted onto Richter 110 grown on clay limestone soil (dry Mediterranean limestone marl) at the Pech Rouge experimental vineyard at INRA-Gruissan, France. The vineyard was planted with a north-south row orientation, 1 m (vine spacing) x 3m (row spacing), trained according to the lyre trellis system, pruned in single cordon of Royat and watered by a drip irrigation system. Two levels of water status, irrigated (I) and non-irrigated (NI) were investigated. For each level of water status, two levels of total leaf area were compared: uniform growth of primary shoots was obtained by topping at 10 primary leaves or 18 primary leaves and by removal of secondary shoots (side shoots) and tendrils from berry-set onwards. Second level bunches were removed to leave only one bunch per shoot. To implement the two water level treatments, irrigation commenced from bunch closure onwards (stage 32, Coombe 1995).

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