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Plant sensor-based precision irrigation for improved vineyard water use efficiency, grape and wine composition and quality, and vineyard profitability


Summary

Objective

This project will provide new tools to Australian grapegrowers to schedule irrigation based on real-time measurements of vine water status.

Background

Currently, grapegrowers schedule irrigation using soil moisture sensing (an indirect measure of vine water status) and water availability, visual techniques (observing vines for water stress symptoms), or based on weather and/or historical irrigation regimes. These approaches can result in over- or under-watering of vines, which leads to either excessive vigour or vine water stress, both of which can lower yield and fruit quality. The project will develop a new platform to continuously measure vine water status and provide feedback to a decision support system to optimise irrigation application. The advantage of vine-based sensing of water status for irrigation is that it is independent of soil type and environmental conditions, as the vine integrates both elements. With the advent of low cost microprocessors and infrared thermal sensors, this new platform has become economically feasible for growers.

Research approach

Sensor functionality will be validated by testing new continuous plant water status sensors against established techniques for plant water status measurement.

A remote sensing platform for spatial characterisation of vine water status using thermal sensing will be developed, with the output data informing the placement of the plant based sensors, according to vine water status variability across a vineyard block.

An irrigation scheduling model with a cultivar-specific algorithm will be established based on continuous sensor data and plant water potential or crop water status thresholds to automatically control irrigation pumps. Sensor data will be correlated with plant performance and productivity data. A wireless mesh network of sensors will be established to collect high spatial and temporal scale data that will be accessible by users via a new tablet/smartphone application.

Field trials of conventional vs. sensor-driven irrigation will compare vine performance, yield, vine and vineyard water use efficiency.

Small lot wines from the treatments will be assessed for basic grape/wine composition and quality (sensory analysis). Water and energy costs for the different irrigation scheduling approaches will also be compared.

Sector benefits

New technologies to optimise water application in vineyards, to improve water use efficiency, yield, grape and wine quality.