|This is the eighth and final article in the series on the history of rootstocks in South Africa. It evaluates the changes in the rootstock spectrum since the early 1960s to the present day, and more specifically in the different wine regions. The reasons for these changes are discussed, as well as the expected future trends in rootstock use.
Changes that occurred in the rootstock spectrum in South Africa over time
Table 1 lists the percentages of vines grafted per rootstock by registered nurseries for five seasons since 1961. Although this does not reflect actual figures of vines established, it provides a good indication of rootstock popularity and demand. Jacquez’s fate was already sealed by the mid-1960s, decreasing to insignificance by 1990. Initially Jacquez’s position was mainly taken over by Richter 99 and 101-14. Richter 110 has shown steady growth over the last 20 years. Paulsen 1103 showed some growth over the last 10 years. Probably the most interesting is the rapid growth in popularity of US 8-7 and especially Ramsey.
Historical rootstock application per wine region
Table 2 shows the percentage distribution of rootstocks (of total area under grapes) in the wine industry over the past 41 years. These figures confirm the continuous changes in the industry. When one considers that Jacquez constituted approximately 90% of the total area under wine grapes in 1960 (the balance being made up of mostly 101-14, and small amounts of Richter 99 and 143 B), its decline within 11 years to only 36% is a revelation. No other rootstock has since shown such a dramatic drop in popularity within such a short period. Accurate figures are not available for 1960 for the other rootstocks Richter 99, 101-14 and 143 B, but 101-14 was the dominant partner probably around 7 to 8%. 143 B was next and Richter 99 just emerging. The information in Table 2 shows the following:
Table 3 shows the distribution of each rootstock expressed as percentage of the total surface under wine grapes per region for 1990, 2000 and 2012. The value in brackets below indicates the actual establishment of the rootstock expressed as percentage of the specific year’s total plantings in the specific region. For example: In 1990 Richter 99 in Stellenbosch constituted 56.2% of all plantings in the region. 42.7% of all new plantings made in Stellenbosch in 1990 consisted of Richter 99. The figure in brackets therefore is an indication of the popularity of the rootstock.
It is interesting to note the changes in rootstock application and distribution in the different wine regions over the past 22 years.
Richter 99 showed a sharp decline of 21.8% while Richter 110 and 101-14 increased by 18.8% and 10.4% between 1990 and 2012 respectively. The other rootstocks remain unimportant since they constitute less than 10% of the surface. The most probable reasons for the growth in Richter 110 and 101-14 are that both these rootstocks induce less vigour than Richter 99 which is a quality parameter in Stellenbosch, and also due to the increased availability of irrigation. More vineyards could therefore be established on 101-14 because it could be ameliorated with irrigation during summer. Richter 110 is a better drought resistant rootstock in Stellenbosch than Richter 99 on high potential sites. The decline of Richter 99 and increase of Richter 110 and 101-14 can also be seen in the annual plantings of these rootstocks since 1990. Noticeable is the rise in new plantings on US 8-7 which amounted to 9.1% in 2012 compared to 0.5% in 2000.
More than 85% of rootstocks in the Paarl region are constituted by Richter 99, Richter 110 and 101-14. Richter 99 increased by 9.9% and Richter 110 by 8.7% between 1990 and 2012, while 101-14 declined by 5.4% in the same period. Ramsey stayed more or less constant. No major shift in rootstock use occurred in Paarl during the past 22 years, except the decline of Jacquez (that made up 15.7% in 1990). 101-14 will probably continue its decline due to the requirement of higher vigour rootstocks that can support higher yields. Both US 8-7 and Ramsey with new plantings of 10.3% and 7.1% in 2012 respectively, are also finding a foothold on the Berg River’s alluvial soils at the expense of Richter 99.
Richter 99 is still the mainstay rootstock for the dry-land vineyards of the Swartland and increased from 66.3% to 72.6% of the total surface between 1990 and 2012. Richter 110 increased by 12% in the same period. These increases were mainly at the expense of Jacquez (12.6% decrease) and 101-14 (10.4% decrease), both of which do not have the drought tolerance of the two Richters. There were also small increases from a low base for Paulsen 1103 and Ruggeri 140, but these will not significantly influence the domination of Richter 99. The annual new plantings of Richter 99 and Richter 110 show a definite trend in that the percentage on Richter 99 steadily decreased from 80.3% in 1990 to 36.3% in 2012, while for Richter 110 it increased from 12.3% in 1990 to 40.4% in 2012. Richter 110 is definitely gaining on Richter 99.
This region presents an interesting case. Richter 99 (14%) and Richter 110 (5.7%) showed significant increases from 1990 to 2012. Although their total plantings increased, both showed a drop in annual plantings compared with other rootstocks. Richter 99 decreased from 44% in 1990 to 23.1% in 2012, while Richter 110 dropped from 22.5% to 13.5% for the same period. The surface under 101-14 decreased by only 1.8% over the last 22 years, but its annual plantings dropped from 17.3% in 1990 to only 1.5% in 2012. US 8-7 showed the most remarkable increase from no commercial plantings in 1990 to 7.2% in 2012, making up 16.5% of all new plantings in 2012. Ramsey gained considerably, with an increase from 7.8% in 1990 to 22.5% in 2012. Ramsey was also the most planted rootstock in 2012 constituting 38.9% of the total. These increases had to go hand in hand with a decrease in one or more of the other rootstocks, since the region did not expand as much as the above shifts suggest. The biggest “loser” was obviously Jacquez, which declined from 44.2% in 1990 to 0.8% in 2012 of the total area planted. Only a few very old Jacquez vineyards still exist.
Changes in the rootstock spectrum over the past 22 years were the most pronounced in this region. Richter 99 and 101-14 declined significantly from 29.9% to 11.9% and 51.7% to 24.1% between 1990 and 2012 respectively. The drop in 101-14 is fascinating as it constituted more than half of the Robertson surface in 1990. It seems 101-14 is on its “last legs” as its percentage of annual plantings dropped from 54.5% in 1990 to 1.5% in 2012, probably never to return again. Richter 99’s annual new plantings dropped from 26.0% in 1990 to 4.1% in 2012, clearly showing the unpopularity of this rootstock. Richter 110 showed a dramatic increase from 4.9% in 1990 to 33.8% in 2012. This trend is still continuing since Richter 110 constituted 41.7% of all new plantings in Robertson in 2012. Ramsey also showed strong growth to reach 15.9% of the total surface in 2012. It also constituted 27.1% of all new plantings in 2012. Mechanisation of vineyard activities for higher yields require higher vigour rootstocks for which Ramsey is particularly suited. Richter 110 replaced 101-14 on the shallow duplex heavy red clay soils that show subsoil wetness and salinity, while Ramsey replaced 101-14 on the alluvial sands/sandy loam soils (also containing some salinity). US 8-7 should also increase in popularity in future years.
At the time of the 1966 survey of the Stellenbosch Wine Institute no grafted vineyards of significant age could be found. Grafted vines only made its appearance in larger volumes in the lower Olifants River (Trawal, Klawer, Vredendal and Lutzville) by the early 1970s. The Olifants River region was traditionally Richter 99 based as most vineyards were planted on the alluvial silts under flood irrigation. Since the coming of drip irrigation and storage capacity for water, more soils outside of the alluvial plains and “above the canal” became available for establishment. Richter 99 is still the dominant rootstock, but its surface declined from 71.5% in 1990 to 57.8% in 2012. Its percentage of annual new plantations shows the same downward trend from 68.4% in 1990 to 19.6% in 2012. Its position is mainly being taken over by Ramsey which grew from 8.1% of the total surface in 1990 to 24.3% in 2012. 60.1% of new vineyards were planted to Ramsey in 2012. 101-14 dropped from 11.9% to 7.9% between 1990 and 2012, and only 2.6% of new plantings in 2012 were made with 101-14 as rootstock. It is expected that 101-14 will decline even further in future since the region has very limited soils suitable for it. Richter 110 has never been an important rootstock in the Olifants River region and is expected to remain that way. The Olifants River is a white cultivar dominated high yield region and for this reason Ramsey is the most suitable rootstock. US 8-7 will also find some application on the alluvial soils and Richter 99 on the Karoo and buitegronde for red cultivars. Richter 99 will stay the most important rootstock for the dry land, mostly bush vine established vineyards, of the Piekenierskloof.
The Klein Karoo was also mostly planted to non-grafted vines until the mid-1960s. Richter 99 (40.6%), 101-14 (31.9%) and Jacquez (16.5%) were the dominant rootstocks until 1990. Jacquez is now insignificant, but both Richter 99 and 101-14 decreased to 32.4% and 20.3% of the total surface by 2012 respectively. Richter 99 only constituted 5.4% of new plantations in 2012, while 101-14 fell to 2.4%. Richter 110 increased from 6% of the total surface in 1990 to 19.5% in 2012 with a steady 22.5% of new vineyards planted in 2012. Ramsey correspondingly increased from a meagre 2.6% of total plantings in 1990 to 18.6% in 2012, with 46.6% of newly established vineyards in 2012. US 8-7 increased to 6.2% of the total surface within the last 10 years. It made up 20.5% of new vineyards planted in 2012. Richter 110 and Ramsey will probably continue growing at the expense of 101-14 and Richter 99.
The Orange River region stretches from Jacobsdal in the east to Augrabies in the west, a distance of more than 450 km over which conditions change considerably, especially in terms of climate. The area was and is still dominated by high yielding white cultivars like Chenin blanc and Colombar together with Sultanas and Merbein Seedless which are either used for wine or raisin grapes, depending on prices and demand. Until the mid-1980s most vineyards in the lower Orange River Valley were planted without rootstocks. Richter 99 was and still is the dominant rootstock, but its popularity declined from 89.0% of total plantings to 56.6% between 1990 and 2012. This can also be seen from the drop in annual plantings that declined from 95% to 15.8% for 1990 and 2012 respectively. Richter 110 gained much of this decline in Richter 99 as it grew from 5.2% of the total surface in 1990 to 24.5% in 2012, constituting 40% of all newly planted vineyards in 2012. Ramsey increased from a low base of 0.6% to 9.0% of total surface between 1990 and 2012, a significant increase.
The case of Ramsey
Ramsey is by far the most important rootstock in the table grape industry. The table grape regions are distributed between the Northern Province (around Potgietersrus/Groblersdal); lower Orange River (Upington, Kakamas, Augrabies); Olifants River (Trawal, Clanwilliam, Vredendal); Berg River (Piketberg, Riebeek, Paarl) and Hex River (De Doorns, Worcester). The total area under vines is around 15 000 ha, but this excludes the approximately 10 000 ha Sultanas in the Orange River that is utilised either for table, raisin and/or wine grapes, depending on price and demand. It is safe to say that approximately 75% of all table grape production is established on Ramsey, with the balance grafted to Richter 110 and a small amount to Paulsen 1103.
The case of 143 B
Special mention has to be made for plantations of vines grafted to 143 B. No new plantations were made in the wine industry since 1990 since it is used almost exclusively for Sultanas and Merbein Seedless, the two principal cultivars in the raisin industry. Renewed activity in the raisin industry has seen plantations of 143 B soar since 2006. Establishment of 143 B increased as follows (figures adapted from Plant SA nursery surveys):
- 2006 161 ha
- 2007 95 ha
- 2008 109 ha
- 2009 145 ha
- 2010 288 ha
- 2011 431 ha
- 2012 537 ha
Table 4 gives a summary of rootstock characteristics for the most important rootstocks in commercial use in South Africa. These characteristics are based on field experience under South African conditions. Please note that the tolerance to lime induced chlorosis is not included in this table because it is not an important aspect under South African conditions. The occurrence of lime is common in the warmer inland grape growing regions, but because it is mostly in a hard, crystalline form, it is not as active as in a cool climate and therefore has little or no effect on rootstock performance in South Africa.
South Africa has been using rootstocks since the 1890s, a period of more than 110 years. A wide range of rootstocks has been trialled, evaluated and commercially used. Initially the available rootstock spectrum was so limited that almost any rootstock was used to replace phylloxera devastated vineyards, even some with Vitis vinifera in their blood line. This led to the demise of many such as 1202, 333 EM, 1613 C (Fairy) and the Aramons. Jacquez dominated for almost 60 years before succumbing to phylloxera, after which 101-14 and Richter 99 started to gain popularity. These two together with Richter 110 and Ramsey are still the most widely used rootstocks in South Africa today.
Most rootstocks in commercial use, not only in South Africa but also world-wide, were bred or selected in Europe between 1875 and 1910. It is remarkable that very few new successful rootstocks have been developed since and therefore one has to greatly admire the work of these European pioneer breeders. Rootstock breeding does not have priority in international research programmes anymore due to decreased funding. This fact, together with the long and successful history and experience of the 100+ year old rootstocks already in use, will probably not see the introduction of one or more phylloxera resistant rootstocks replacing them. Nematode resistant rootstocks for use in intensively irrigated regions without phylloxera (like parts of the San Joaquin Valley in California, Chile, Mexico and Egypt) is being developed by the USDA in California and has seen some successful implementation (Freedom, Harmony and VR 039-16).
South African rootstock breeding under Professor Chris Orffer has seen the introduction of the successful US 8-7. This rootstock has Vitis vinifera parentage and has been used extensively without phylloxera induced decline. One has to take into account though that Jacquez survived for 60 years before succumbing to phylloxera, and similarly AXR#1 in California.
The current rootstock spectrum in South Africa has been highly successful on a diverse range of soil types, climatic conditions and production environments. Significant changes are not expected in the immediate future, although shifts may occur between rootstocks according to changes in demands of the industries. This has been shown repeatedly over the past 100 years.
I would like to convey my sincere thanks to the following persons for their assistance:
Johan Wiese (Voor Groenberg Nurseries, Wellington)
Johan Pienaar (Viticultural Consultant at VinPro, retired)
Briaan Stipp (Viticulturist, Robertson Winery)
Jacques Ferreira and Carin Bothma (Wine Grape Improvement Association)
Bonita Floris-Samuels (SAWIS)
Heidi Heins (Voor Groenberg Nurseries, Wellington)
Johan Malan (Cordiersrus, Wellington)
Gawie Kriel (Manager Vititec, retired)
Doronae de Ridder (WineLand)
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