The French wine industry has a year to convince the authorities that it should be allowed to spray by drone

Tuesday October 06 2020 by Vitisphere

 850 hectares could be treated by UAV in the northern Côtes du Rhône, Beaujolais and Savoy regions. The technique is also attracting interest in Alsace. 850 hectares could be treated by UAV in the northern Côtes du Rhône, Beaujolais and Savoy regions. The technique is also attracting interest in Alsace. - Photo credit : Agrofly

"Despite the density of the foliage, the drone reined in downy and powdery mildew well”, says Amandine Fauriat, an adviser with the Ardèche chamber of agriculture and coordinator of the Drone Viti project. Early morning on June 11 and 26, the drone, flown by a service provider, hovered over two plots of vines. “On each occasion, part of the vineyard was treated by winegrowers using a backpack sprayer, whilst another was not treated”, explains Fauriat.

The partners have perfected their protocol. “In particular, we realised that the drone had to be flown more than 3 metres above the ground, and that we had to correct small misalignments in its route that was predefined at the start of the season”, continues Fauriat. And, although pathogen pressure remained moderate, they were able to get a first glimpse of the UAV’s performance. "On the plot most affected by powdery mildew, the UAV did as well or even better than a man equipped with a backpack sprayer. Of course we can't yet compete with a towed sprayer, but the equipment will improve”, adds Fauriat, who sees the technique as a real solution for providing relief for winegrowers unable to use helicopters for the last 5 years.

At the end of 2021, in a bid to secure permanent authorisation for the treatment of steeply sloping vineyards by drone, they will send a report to the authorities. Permission would be granted at the earliest in 2022 and would involve vineyards located on slopes with a gradient of at least 30%, treated with UAVs weighing less than 25 kg and spraying plant protection products approved for organic farming (or planted on HVE-certified farms), more than 100 metres from houses.

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