Precision Viticulture (PV) technologies are being used to assist grape growers and wine producers manage variability within their vineyards. With the increase in production costs, growers are using spatial information to minimise expenditure by applying those inputs (eg. water, fertilizers, labour, machinery) more efficiently. Similarly, the technology is being used to harvest fruit parcels of uniform quality and improve vineyard sampling techniques (eg. crop estimation, fruit maturity assessment, pest and disease monitoring). New vineyard developments and re-developments are also using the technology to identify soil boundaries and design vineyard block layout.
Remote sensing using light aircraft provides a means by which spatial information describing vine canopy characteristics can be easily collected and is often the ‘entry point’ for new adopters of the technology due to the potential high return on investment.
Soil and Topography
Grape growers are acquiring high resolution soil and elevation data to gain a better understanding of soil and topography related factors controlling vine performance across their vineyards. This data is an important source of information for irrigation and drainage designers.
Harvest contractors and wine companies are installing yield monitors to their mechanical harvesters. The output in the form of yield maps has been welcomed by growers and wine producers since they can now identify areas of different crop yield, and in some cases different fruit quality attributes, within individual vineyard blocks.
Block Boundary surveying
One of the most important tasks when starting to implement Precision Viticulture is to collect accurate block boundary information. If done correctly, it will only need to be done once and should preferably be supplied before imagery or maps are purchased.
Airborne imagery and soil maps need to be ground truthed before using them for making vineyard management decisions. This is easily done by either using the maps in hard copy format or having information displayed on a hand-held computer. By combining various layers of spatial information, relationships can be examined and ‘management zones’ created which form the basis for targeted vineyard management.