Is vegetative area, photosynthesis, or grape C uploading involved in the climate change-related grape sugar/anthocyanin decoupling in Tempranillo?
Foreseen climate change is expected to impact on grape composition, both sugar and pigment content. We tested the hypothesis that interactions between main factors associated with climate change (elevated CO2, elevated temperature, and water deficit) decouple sugars and anthocyanins, and explored the possible involvement of vegetative area, photosynthesis, and grape C uploading on the decoupling. Tempranillo grapevine fruit-bearing cuttings were exposed to CO2 (700 vs. 400ppm), temperature (ambient vs. +4 degrees C), and irrigation levels (partial vs. full) in temperature-gradient greenhouses. In a search for mechanistic insights into the underlying processes, experiments 1 and 2 were designed to maximize photosynthesis and enlarge leaf area range among treatments, whereas plant growth was manipulated in order to deliberately down-regulate photosynthesis and control vegetative area in experiments 3 and 4. Towards this aim, treatments were applied either from fruit set to maturity with free vegetation and fully irrigated or at 5-8% of pot capacity (experiments 1 and 2), or from veraison to maturity with controlled vegetation and fully irrigated or at 40% of pot capacity (experiments 3 and 4). Modification of air C-13 isotopic composition under elevated CO2 enabled the further characterization of whole C fixation period and C partitioning to grapes. Increases of the grape sugars-to-anthocyanins ratio were highly and positively correlated with photosynthesis and grape C-13 labeling, but not with vegetative area. Evidence is presented for photosynthesis, from fruit set to veraison, and grape C uploading, from veraison to maturity, as key processes involved in the establishment and development, respectively, of the grape sugars to anthocyanins decoupling.