Why does Brix matter?

To professional growers, Brix means everything! Every grower should be trying to grow their plants with a high level of Brix! In this blog, we’re going to provide some context to why Brix is so important, and how it can make a big difference to the size and quality of a crop.

Brix defined:

The degree of Brix (°Brix) was introduced by Adolf Ferdinand Wenceslaus Brix in the mid 1800s. Degrees Brix is a measure of the sugar concentration in a liquid. The higher the Brix level, the sweeter the liquid is. By definition, 10 degrees of Brix is the sweetness of 1000 grams of liquid which has 10 grams of sucrose (normal table sugar) dissolved in it. You’ll see degrees Brix abbreviated to °Bx, much in the same way that degrees Fahrenheit is frequently abbreviated to °F.

The Brix scale is the scale of choice for the wine industry. It provides the winegrower with an indication of the likely alcohol content after fermentation. Vineyard workers will often keep an eye on the Brix levels in their grapevines as they mature and get ready for harvest. The Brix scale can be used for growers of other plants too.

Healthy Vines Rely On Brix

Photosynthesis is a process that takes place in the leaves. A simple carbohydrate is created in the leaves when a carbon molecule binds with a water molecule. Plant sap contains the sugars that have been created by photosynthesis in the leaves. The plant translocates the sugar-containing sap from the leaves to the other parts where it is needed. This could be vegetative, fruit, or even root growth. It is this sugar level in the sap that is of interest to us growers. It gives us an insight into the health and vigor of our plants and even the likely eventual crop size and sweetness of the produce. Measuring Brix is a way of measuring recent photosynthetic activity. Plants with a high Brix level have the following advantages:

  • Better resilience to heat or drought conditions
  • Greater resistance to insects
  • Greater resistance to diseases from pathogenic fungi, bacteria, and viruses
  • More efficient nutrient uptake
  • Higher lipid production (for long-term energy storage)
  • Sweeter, higher quality produce containing more sugar, flavonoids, and terpenes 
  • Plants feed the soil! Beneficial microbes rely on root exudates in the form of carbohydrates. More root exudates translate to healthier microbial populations and diversity. The diversity of the soil food web is correlated with plant health.

One of the most interesting of all these advantages is the increase in pest & disease resistance as Brix levels go up. Higher Brix levels mean that the plant can afford to spend its energy on efficient transpiration. Less energy spent on metabolic processes improves the vine’s immune system and structural integrity. Pests and diseases will mostly leave healthy plants alone and instead attack weaker plants that are growing in poor soil lacking in microbial activity. 

How Can You Increase Brix levels?

  • Leaf tissue testing provides an insight into concentrations of essential nutrients in the leaves. Make adjustments to fertilization strategies to address deficiencies.
  • Apply foliar nutrition at vital stages of growth- shoot development, bloom, buckshot, bunch closure, veraison
  • Test your soil. Biological Assessment and nutrient analysis could help identify imbalances.
  • Improve the populations and diversity of beneficial soil microbes. Root and shoot applications of a biologically diverse compost extract are a good way to supplement your soil microbes.
  • Proper pruning methods in the winter dictate the number of clusters on a grapevine. Appropriate numbers of clusters will prevent excess foliage produced in the spring. Grapevines over-compensate with increased foliage if there is insufficient fruit load to store the carbohydrates produced in the leaves.