Updated: Jun 4, 2021
Wine grape growing is one of the oldest industries on Earth, and one of the most significant. For years, farmers and vineyard managers have relied on extensive data and unrivaled experience. But despite their strongest efforts, they have constantly struggled with the same old challenge: high production costs, inefficient use of resources, and slim profit margins.
Vineyards are characterized by a high heterogeneity due to structural factors such as the pedo-morphological characteristics (soil composition), and other dynamics such as cropping practices and seasonal weather. This variability causes different vine physiological responses, with direct negative consequences on grape quality, vineyard output and overall profitability.
Vineyards therefore require a specific agronomic management to satisfy the real needs of the crop, in relation to the spatial variability within the vineyard.
Precision viticulture (PV), or site specific crop management (SSCM), is an integrated information and production-based production system that aims at adjusting vineyard management to the spatial variability that naturally appears in the field in order to increase its economic and environmental sustainability. It is designed to increase long term, site-specific and whole vineyard production efficiency, productivity, and profitability while minimizing unintended impacts on the environment. The technological tools often used in precision viticulture include global positioning systems (GPS), remote sensing (RS), geographical information systems (GIS), and variable rate application (VRA). The GPS is a satellite constellation used to geo-reference spatially referenced vineyard data (e.g., soil samples, yields, etc.), or some other grapevine management practice within the vineyard block. Remote sensing refers to capture of digital imagery of the Earth’s surface by aircraft and satellite. Geographical information systems enable the convenient capture, storage, manipulation, and management of spatially aligned, geographic data layers. Variable rate application describes any technology, which enables growers to vary the rate of inputs and carefully target resources to optimize grape quality and yield and avoid costly and unviable farming operations.
Precision viticulture thus seeks to exploit the widest range of available observations to describe the vineyard spatial variability with high resolution, and provide recommendations to improve management efficiency in terms of quality, production, and sustainability.
PV is a popular topic in recent years, although the vast majority of vineyards around the world still don’t practice it. Anyway, those who do, can achieve a fairly more consistent quality of their crops, both in terms of spatial variability, as well as in terms of inter-season variability.
Precision Viticulture, is a set of practices and technologies that answer the following questions: What to do, Where and When – to optimally work towards the desired goal.
A desired goal, in this case, can be anything a vintner sets to go after: a certain level of acids and sugars, a certain level of other qualities in grape, a certain level of crop loss, a certain price point. Whatever type of grape you want to achieve, with the help of PV techniques, you will get closer to it.
Precision Viticulture techniques are being used for vineyard design, vineyard mapping, soil sampling, canopy and vigor monitoring, variable rate applications, and yield mapping among other applications.
Precision Viticulture is all about identifying and managing variability within a vineyard, and optimizing its performance, in particular, maximizing grape yield and quality while minimizing farming cost and environmental impacts and risks.
It is a popular topic in recent years, although the vast majority of vineyards around the world still don’t practice it. Anyway, those who do, can achieve a fairly more consistent quality of their crops, both in terms of spatial and interseason variability and a healthier wine grapegrowing business.