Terroir factors and vineyard practices largely determine canopy and root system functioning. In this study, changes in soil conditions, multi-level (vertical, horizontal) light interception (quantitative, photographic, schematic, 3D modelled), leaf water potential and photosynthetic activity were measured during the grape ripening period on NS, EW, NE-SW, and NW-SE orientated (Southern Hemisphere) vertically trellised Shiraz grapevine canopies. It was hypothesised that the spatial radiation interception angle and radiation distribution of differently orientated and vertically trained grapevine rows would affect soil conditions and vine physiological activity. Soil water content showed an increase and soil temperature a decreasing gradient with soil depth. In the afternoon, soil layers of EW orientated rows reached their highest temperature. This, along with measured photosynthetic active radiation received by canopies, complimented the diurnally-captured photographic, constructed and 3D modelled images (also schematically) of canopy and soil exposure patterns. The top, bottom and outside of NS canopies mainly received radiation from directly above, from the E and the W; during midday, high radiation was only received from above. The EW rows received the highest radiation component from above and from the N. The NE-SW rows received high levels of radiation from above, from the SE until 10:00, and from the NW from 13:00. A similar profile can be described for NW-SE rows, but with high radiation received from the NE up to 13:00 and from the SW from 16:00. Overall, lowest leaf water potential occurred for NE-SW canopies, followed by those orientated NW-SE, NS and EW. Photosynthetic activity reflected the positive radiation impact of the sun azimuth during the grape ripening period; best overall performance seemed to occur for E and N exposed canopy sides. This was largely driven by the responsiveness of the secondary leaves to radiation. Photosynthetic output decreased from apical to basal canopy zones with low, erratic values in the light-limited canopy centre. The NS and EW orientated canopies generally showed the highest average photosynthesis, while it was lower for the sides facing S, SE and SW. The results provide a better understanding of the physiological functioning of horizontal and vertical leaf layers in differently orientated grapevine canopies, as affected by climatic conditions. The study contributes to the longstanding challenges of capturing the complexity of parallel microclimatic and physiological output of grapevine canopies under open field conditions. The results can be directly applied to the selection of vineyard practices and seasonal management to ensure the attainment of yield, grape composition and wine quality objectives.
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