Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Hydraulic connection of grape berries to the vine: varietal differences in water conductance into and out of berries, and potential for backflow

Joanne Tilbrook A B and Stephen D. Tyerman A B C

A Cooperative Research Centre for Viticulture, PO Box 154, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

B School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 36(6) 541-550
Submitted: 20 January 2009  Accepted: 16 April 2009   Published: 1 June 2009


Weight loss in Vitis vinifera L. cv. Shiraz berries occurs in the later stages of ripening from 90–100 days after anthesis (DAA). This rarely occurs in varieties such as Chardonnay and Thompson seedless. Flow rates of water under a constant pressure into berries on detached bunches of these varieties are similar until 90–100 DAA. Shiraz berries then maintain constant flow rates until harvest maturity, and Chardonnay inflow tapers to almost zero. Thompson seedless maintains high xylem inflows. Hydraulic conductance for flow in and out of individual Shiraz and Chardonnay berries was measured using a root pressure probe. From 105 DAA, during berry weight loss in Shiraz, there were significant varietal differences in xylem hydraulic conductance. Both varieties showed flow rectification such that conductance for inflow was higher than conductance for outflow. For flow into the berry, Chardonnay had 14% of the conductance of Shiraz. For flow out of the berry Chardonnay was 4% of the conductance of Shiraz. From conductance measurements for outflow from the berry and stem water potential measurements, it was calculated that Shiraz could loose ~7% of berry volume per day, consistent with rates of berry weight loss. A functional pathway for backflow from the berries to the vine via the xylem was visualised with Lucifer Yellow CH loaded at the cut stylar end of berries on potted vines. Transport of the dye out of the berry xylem ceased before 97 DAA in Chardonnay, but was still transported into the torus and pedicel xylem of Shiraz at 118 DAA. Xylem backflow could be responsible for a portion of the post-veraison weight loss in Shiraz berries. These data provide evidence of varietal differences in hydraulic connection of berries to the vine that we relate to cell vitality in the mesocarp. The key determinates of berry water relations appear to be maintenance or otherwise of semi permeable membranes in the mesocarp cells and control of flow to the xylem to give variable hydraulic connection back to the vine.

Additional keywords: berry ripening, berry shrivel, berry xylem, flow meter, hydraulic conductance, pressure probe, Vitis vinifera.


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