Understanding factors controlling root dynamics and functioning can lead to more efficient and profitable vineyard management. However, our current understanding of root dynamics and their regulation by plant and environmental factors is limited, particularly under field conditions. This paper presents current understanding of grape root dynamics, highlighting studies using minirhizotron cameras, which directly assess root dynamics, and experiments on roots of known age, which link root phenology and function. Data summarised here show timing of grape root production varies widely among different regions, as well as among rootstocks and canopy management systems in the same region. Timing of production can be responsive to differences in soil moisture. Lifespan of grape roots, however, appears less affected by soil moisture because of nocturnal hydraulic redistribution. Root function, such as capacity for P and N uptake, declines rapidly with root age. Differences in timing and spatial distribution of root production can effect above-ground growth and vineyard water-use efficiency. Improving our understanding of when roots grow and are functionally active in agricultural systems can lead to improved water and fertiliser applications, and more precise vineyard management. Because both environmental and biological factors affect root dynamics, simple predictions of timing of root production or standing populations with shoot development are unlikely to be achieved. However, with multi-year data on root dynamics, and environmental and biological factors, regionally specific models of root populations and their functioning may be possible to develop.
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