Turning water into wine: This new app helps growers solve irrigation issues

Posted 14 March 2017

GrapevineA new smartphone app promises to diagnose grapevine health and help growers make smarter irrigation decisions with the press of a button. 

The Vine Water Stress app uses a thermal imaging camera attached to a smartphone to snap photos of the grapevine canopies. It then analyses the images and calculates the vine water status. 

Wine Australia's General Manager of Research, Development and Extension Dr Liz Waters said the portable viticulture tool would greatly improve water management decision-making. 

“Through many years of extensive research, methods have been developed to assess grapevine water status. This new app provides a portable solution to measure water status quickly and easily in the vineyard,” she said.

“The app allows growers to make informed irrigation decisions that support the production of high-quality fruit grown to specification.”

The app is being trialled at 15 vineyards across southern Australia as part of a project funded by Wine Australia and led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) in collaboration with the University of New South Wales.

SARDI Acting Executive Director Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller said the app would help reduce water and associated pumping costs, which could be a significant component of production costs for grape growers.

“Uncontrolled water stress has the potential to reduce the yield and quality of grapes and the resulting wine, which in turn reduces the return to growers,” she said.

“The management of vine water status is a key tool for grape growers to regulate yield and optimise fruit quality and style.

“This new app offers grape growers instant feedback on the water status of their vines, and provides them with the flexibility to assess multiple blocks – or sections of blocks – and to make irrigation decisions in real time.”

If you’re interested in learning about how some of South Australia’s vineyards manage their wastewater, be sure to register for the upcoming technical tour to the Barossa Valley.