Viticulture: from precision mapping to targeted fertilisation

Thursday April 03 2014 by Trans. by R.Radford

 

Whatever anyone claims, any fertiliser supplier who is seeking to reduce the spread application rate for their clients does it “not for reasons of philanthropy, but as a result of their professionalism”.  And, if we are to believe Alain Merly, Authentis consultant for the Frayssinet group (the market leader in France for organic fertilisers), the suppliers should be the first to be pleased that wine-growers “are no longer flippant about fertilisation” but have realised that “it links to the quality of the final product; the wine they produce”.  A significant “change in the relationship between upstream and downstream fertilisers”, was seen as the mainstay of a project to optimise fertilisation, run by the Vignerons de Buzet wine-growers’ cooperative (which, since 2007, has only used organic fertilisers, in compliance with AgriConfiance requirements).  This ambitious plan to rationalise current practice, aims to provide the exact amount of nutriments required:  no more, and certainly not less.  It rests upon a collaborative approach between interdependent partners.

The Buzet wine-growers’ cooperative has allowed Telespazio satellite services (led by the EarthLab environmental monitoring centre in Aquitaine), to map the terrain at the Gueyze estate (76 hectares in all).  In August 2013, during the onset of ripening, the Thales subsidiary also led a project where data was obtained using aerial photography from drones and satellites to produce an up-to-date map*.  With its precision, mapping vegetation from space is complemented by agronomic observations, for example in areas where vines need replacing.  Bringing together GIS (Geographic Information System) and empiricism, the new map that is produced allows a particular area to be divided into plots, according to how much fertiliser is needed (dosage of Orga6 being of 0.200 and 400kg/ha for an area of Merlot treated on 17th March).  This map, which represents precision wine-growing, must however remain usable in terms resolution sharpness.  Lilian Valette (Telespazio) also emphasised that “the concern when producing a map, is that the information does not get lost by using too many zones and colours!  It is important to adapt to the machine’s sensitivity levels, to the practicability of data processing and what can be achieved for individual plots or fields”.  The most recent partner in this collaborative project, the manufacturer New Holland, has used their in-house software (FarmWorks) in a spreader with an adjustable screw (in this case the GRV AgroVis) fitted with a kit showcased at the last SITEVI exhibition.  “GPS antenna, built-in control screen, electrical unit, counter and hydraulic unit” listed Pierre Cayrouse, who added that it was “the first time that the kit would be able to provide such a range of features on a full-scale model”.

*using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) which shows the ratio of the difference between red and infra-red light reflected by vegetation.

 

[Source: Vitisphere; Photo: demonstration of targeted spreading on the Gueyze Estate, 17 March 2014]

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