For many years, the vine disease monitoring service CropWatch has been the ‘go to’ for Riverland growers seeking timely advice addressing the risk of downy mildew – especially during the high-risk period from September to December.
Now, growers are trialling the evolved version of the service that is now available on a new app GrapeWatch that has been funded with Wine Australia’s Regional Program in the Riverland.
CropWatch was developed by scientists from the Loxton Research Centre in the 1980s and was originally run as a ‘phone in service’ and then a fax service to subscribers. Dr Peter Magarey was closely involved in its development, and it is still very much his passion.
Riverland Wine took over responsibility of the service in 2002 and have had a steady program to update and increase the capabilities of the monitoring service and move towards greater automation. This included working with the Natural Resources Management Board to extend the automatic weather station network in the region and add vine canopy sensors.
It is this network that is at the heart of the development of the GrapeWatch app, according to Riverland Wine’s Chris Bennett.
‘The new GrapeWatch app is designed to provide automatic alerts directly to growers in real time and based upon the closest weather station to the property.’
Chris said the Beta version of the GrapeWatch app was ‘softly’ launched this season.
The idea was to get a number of growers to trial and evaluate the app and use their feedback to improve its functionality and fix any bugs.
He said the Beta version was very well accepted by growers.
Now, GrapeWatch will be officially launched next season once the final tuning of the app is complete.
Chris said the Riverland region was working cooperatively with the Murray Valley region and Peter Magarey from Magarey Pathology to add further features to the app.
‘We believe this will make the App even more valuable in assisting growers in managing disease more effectively.
‘Both powdery mildew and bunch rots are in the system and other features including a weather forecasting component will be added. This will give growers a better idea of their future disease risks, rather than just basing everything on historical data.
‘This will be extremely useful to larger vineyards that take a lot longer to complete a spray cycle and need to look further forward in deciding on their spray program.’
Chris said it is hard to estimate the ‘savings’ to winegrape growers over the decades as a result of CropWatch, but it would amount to many millions of dollars in saved chemical costs and saved crops.
The new GrapeWatch features:
- Alerts for bunch rots and powdery mildew. ‘The outcome will be more information about all the main vine diseases and advice on best methods of control’, Chris said.
- An automated system so that alerts generated will be sent directly to members via mobile or email. This will happen immediately after the nearest weather station (to the member’s property) receives data that signals disease risk. ‘This means the alerts will be very specific – and therefore more accurate’, Chris said.