This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Monday, 29 July, 2013
University of Adelaide wine researchers are leading an international project to develop and test new tools and technologies to help the viticulture industry protect their vineyards from climate change.
The researchers, in a project called Vineyard of the Future, are establishing a futuristic vineyard at the University’s Waite Campus as a testing ground for new and emerging technologies that will help grapegrowers adapt to climate change and introduce efficiencies.
“The viticulture industry is vulnerable to climate change because of grapevines’ high sensitivity to temperature and rainfall,” says project leader Professor Steve Tyerman, from the University’s Waite Research Institute. “To successfully adapt, the industry needs better management systems that will allow rapid response to climatic events and other risks.”
The one hectare vineyard at Waite Campus has a system of continuous remote monitoring with a combination of sensors and image analysis enabling around-the-clock measuring of vine performance under changing conditions.
“We need a complete picture of how the vine is responding to climate variables and soil conditions at any particular time,” says Professor Tyerman.
The technology will also help the industry become more efficient.
“Grapegrowers are facing costs pressures,” he says. “We want to show how it is possible to cut costs and save on labour using modern sensors and imaging.”
The Vineyard of the Future is led by Professor Tyerman, working with Dr Roberta De Bei, postdoctoral fellow in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, and with collaborators Dr Sigfredo Fuentes, University of Melbourne, and others in Chile, Spain, France and the United States.
Some of the tested technologies and techniques will soon be available for growers to monitor their own vineyards for changes in canopy growth and form, and plant water status.
Tools include a wetting pattern analyser to help better target irrigation and fertiliser use; infrared thermography and automated analysis to assess plant water status; and canopy assessment using cover photography.
“Some of the systems we’ve developed are now being tested in commercial vineyards in Australia and Chile,” says Professor Tyerman. “When we talk of Vineyard of the Future, the future may not be far away at all.”