Projected changes in drought occurrence in the Mediterranean region are raising concerns about the adaptive capability of rainfed crops, such as grapevine, to increasing aridity. Cultivation management, especially the techniques influencing the hydraulic pathway, can play a role in plant adaptation to drought for the consequent changes in wood anatomical functional traits. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of grafting on wood anatomy in tree-ring series of Vitis vini-fera L. ‘Piedirosso’ grapevine cultivated in a volcanic area in Southern Italy. Tree-ring anatomy was analysed in vines grown on their own roots or grafted onto 420A rootstock. Results showed that grafted vines had a higher occurrence of wood traits linked with safety of water transport if compared with non-grafted vines. Grafting induced the formation of tree rings with higher incidence of latewood also characterised by narrower and more frequent vessels if compared with non-grafted vines. This study suggested a different regulation of water flow in the grafted and non-grafted vines. Such findings support the analysis of wood anatomy as a tool to drive decisions linked with plant cultivation management. In this specific case, our results encourage to further explore the change from a traditional cultivation with own-rooted grapevines towards grafted models inducing better xylem adaptation to increasing drought.
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