How Precision Viticulture Promotes Eco-Friendly Practices in Vineyards

The trends in wine growing continue to evolve over time. Ever asked yourself what this is supposed to mean for those working in the winegrowing field? Well, a lot is happening in the technological world today. It is inevitable for winegrowers to change tactics in their vineyard operations if a fruitful tomorrow is guaranteed. In recent decades, technology has been evolving fast, and winegrowers must act accordingly to catch up with the changing times.

Interestingly, most contemporary wine-growing trends are directed towards the quality and sustainability of vineyards and wineries. At the same time, the impact of wine growing has gradually given rise to specific environmental issues that cannot be ignored. Notably, due to growing competition in international markets, it has become imperative for winegrowers to not only achieve but also maintain exceptional standards within their vineyards.

Consequently, viticulture rejuvenation has witnessed radical transformations in recent years. Various established agricultural techniques are now under review. The critical goal of this practice is quality maximization and sustainability by ensuring minimal reliance on chemicals and fertilizers while improving efficient production inputs. These steps are taken to ensure the preservation of the vineyard. One cannot deny that precision viticulture is an innovative concept that is being steered in a direction.

It has emerged as a new form of vineyard management that seeks to address the specific needs of each parcel in the vineyard. [1] Primarily, precision viticulture is about the application of either new or emerging technologies, such as installing sensors to collect information and data on various critical vine parameters and the impact of terroir on vine growth.

Similarly, many other cutting-edge technologies have been employed in viticulture, which includes Global Positioning Systems (GPS), proximal sensors, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), satellite, airborne remote sensing to estimate LAI (Leaf Area Index), and other vegetarian indices as well as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). These technologies can evaluate and respond to the variability in the vineyard.[2] These technologies have been briefly discussed in the following sections.

Precision Viticulture is only a few decades old

Precision Viticulture is a new discipline in the wine-growing industry as it emerged in the 1990s. It is a practice premised on improving environmental and economic sustainability by adjusting the vineyard management to the variability spatial that appears naturally on the vineyard. However, it is notable that although precision viticulture has exhibited rapid growth during the last two decades, not much research has taken advantage of the considerable potential that advanced analytics can offer to the wine-growing discipline.[3]

The interdisciplinary integration of advanced data analytics and precision viticulture is capable of providing beyond a suitable assessment of the implementation of precision viticulture benefits. Moreover, it offers a broader comprehension of the internal components that determine the composition of grapes since a considerable number of the external elements behind the variability sources tend to be fixed while dealing with one particular field.

The place of precision viticulture

Winegrowers—as would be the case in any other form of farming—are still grappling with the question of how precision viticulture can transform their vineyards and offer them sustainable growth. There is a constant urge among all the stakeholders in the viticulture business to realize the best results possible in so far as wine-growing production and winemaking pertain.

From those that spend hours tending to the grapes to get the best quality grapes to those who finally work to produce excellent wine, everyone is concerned with finding optimal solutions to any issues that may hamper their success. In a fundamental sense, winemaking, though undertaken through human labor and machinery, is a craft that depends on Mother Nature’s regulation. Consequently, numerous variables have to be addressed to ensure that the yields are properly managed and in a responsible manner. Societal and environmental burdens have imposed more pressure on winegrowers to adopt sustainable methodologies while maintaining the products’ high quality.[4]

Therefore, the emphasis on implementing precision viticulture only makes sense if vintners appreciate its relevance to their vineyards or wineries. Hence, precision viticulture can be summed up into one major aspect: managing and controlling the environmental parameters that may potentially impact output. Farmers can make the necessary adjustments to their vineyards through parameter control. Nonetheless, one question that emerges from practicing precision viticulture is how it contributes toward environmentally friendly practices in the vineyard.[5]

Precision viticulture technologies

Precision viticulture is all about the use of technology in vineyards and wineries. Consequently, numerous technologies have been applied to precision viticulture. The available technologies have been categorized into two primary groups. The first group of technologies deals with monitoring, while the second one deals with particular agronomic inputs. Monitoring technologies essentially offer the foundation for mapping and spatial variability, while the site-specific agronomic inputs are considered agbot systems and Variable Rate Technologies (VRTs). [6]

Remote sensing

As the most popular technique of precision viticulture, remote sensing offers a description of the various aspects of the grapevine, including its size, shape, and vigor. Additionally, it enables a variability assessment of the vineyard. In essence, remote sensing is the acquisition of an image and data from afar with varying resolution scales that offer the vineyard description. Primarily, various remote sensors perform detection and recoding of sunlight reflection on the surface of the objects positioned on the ground.

Satellites

Satellites have been an integral component of precision farming for more than four decades since July 23, 1972, after the launch of Landsat-1 into orbit. Equipped with multispectral sensors, Landsat-1 was able to offer a dimensional resolution. In 1984, the launch of Landsat-5 followed, which was powered to collect imagery in various colors. The first application of distant sensing precision farming took place later when the bare soil was captured to assess organic matter by evaluating its spatial patterns.

Over time, satellite-based imaging systems have gradually improved their spatial resolution and sensor performance. In August 2014, another satellite was launched that could offer higher resolutions. Undoubtedly, there is enormous potential in the use of satellites for remote sensing, although the spatial resolution alone is not adequate for precision viticulture. This is due to the narrow spacing of vines, which reduces the appropriate imaging quality. Moreover, the resolution is usually temporary due to transformations in the weather pattern, terroir, and vineyard formations. Therefore, the impact of image resolution on varying conditions in vineyards is an open question for future research studies.

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs)

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) is regarded among the most thrilling technologies that are applicable to agriculture. Many WSNs determine how technology can play an integral role in minimizing many subtasks within acceptable margins. Precision viticulture now relies on WSNs that essentially offer an efficient and helpful mechanism for conducting a real-time and remote assessment of the core variables involved in the production of grapes as well as data processing and transmission of information to the corresponding stakeholders.

Soil monitoring

The proximal observation of soil variability is an overriding application of precision viticulture’s innovative techniques that entails making use of broad-ranging sensors. The soil’s presumed electrical conductivity is assessed through mobile platforms installed with electromagnetic sensors and GPS monitoring systems for constant evaluation.

All these cutting-edge precision viticulture technologies are significant in improving the winemaking industry. However, it is eventually the winegrowers’ task to adapt continuously to remain relevant to the exponentially-changing technology. Therefore, winegrowers are encouraged to implement advanced eco-friendly technologies to transform their conventional methods for improving product quality. Finally, it should be noted that precision viticulture is here to stay, and its potential is yet to be fully realized.

On this Day

July 23, 1972: On this day, Landsat-1 was launched into orbit. It had a multispectral sensor that would provide dimensional resolution of images of vineyards.

March 1, 1984: On this day, Landsat-5 was launched, and it could collect data comprising colored imagery.

December 23, 2014: On this day, the maiden flight of the Angara A5 was launched. Its resolution was even higher than Landsat-5. The launching of Angara A5 was a significant development toward offering better options in precision viticulture.

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References

[1] Matese, Alessandro, and Salvatore Filippo Di Gennaro. “Technology in precision viticulture: A state of the art review.” International journal of wine research 7 (2015): 69-81. https://www.dovepress.com/technology-in-precision-viticulture-a-state-of-the-art-review-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-IJWR

[2] https://www.smartrural21.eu/smart-solution/precision-viticulture/

[3] Santesteban, Luis G. “Precision viticulture and advanced analytics. A short review.” Food chemistry 279 (2019): 58-62.DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.11.140

[4] Patel, Savan. “ Precision Viticulture: The importance of evolving towards sustainable farming and increased productivity” (2018 ). https://www.challenge.org/knowledgeitems/precision-viticulture-the-importance-of-evolving-towards-sustainable-farming-and-increased-productivity/

[5] ibid

[6] Ibid

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