Have a conversation with any of the world’s leading winemakers and one thing will quickly become apparent – good wines start on the vine. Vineyard managers know the value of having boots on the ground, constantly scanning for problems throughout the vineyard and ensuring optimal growing conditions for the vines. A high level of attention to detail in the vineyard is one of the best predictors of a high-quality wine.
Premium wine growers in California have trusted VineView’s aerial vigor maps to improve the growing conditions in their fields for almost two decades. The information presented by these maps through the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), a significantly more accurate tool than the traditional NDVI, is invaluable in determining the overall health of a given plant. Growers often speak to the inherent value of the information they receive from our vigor maps, and we love learning about what to do with the information and how they adapt their management strategies based on our tool. Here are five practical ways to use vine vigor information in your vineyard this year:
1. Drive vineyard uniformity at the block level
Achieving uniform vigor within a block is perhaps the most well-known use of aerial vigor mapping. Vigor maps work by detecting the amount of chlorophyll in the canopy available for photosynthesis. The higher the level of chlorophyll, the more “vigorous” the vine. Therefore, vigor maps can be used to determine areas of high or low vigor which could require your attention.
Vines with different vigor levels tend to produce grapes with different qualities. For example, high-vigor vines tend to contribute a more vegetative flavor to the wines they produce. Additionally, fruit ripening times can vary significantly among vines of different vigor levels. The Calibrated EVI Zone Maps are an effective and efficient visual tool to ensure crop uniformity and vigor homogenization of the vines. Growers drive uniformity, increasing or decreasing the vigor of the vines through a variety of vineyard management techniques like modifying irrigation and adapting their fertilization techniques.
2. Improve harvest planning
Grape quality can be directly correlated to the vigor of the parent vine. Using our suite of vine vigour products, growers can locate areas in their parcels to increase and improve the production of premium wine and optimize harvest scheduling. An efficient harvest plan not only saves on labour costs, but higher quality grapes can lead to increased profit both when selling to other wineries, or simply by selling the resulting premium wine for a higher cost.
3. Get samples that reflect actual field conditions
Random sampling is often considered the best way to collect samples within a population, but as you may know, random sampling has its limitations, namely that the sampling must be conducted on a homogeneous population. Unless a field has uniform, homogenous vigor, it is difficult to get samples that accurately reflect field conditions.
Areas of varying vigour become evident using our vigor maps, which are extremely accurate given that we account for factors like atmospheric conditions, solar angle and soil variations, so you can be sure you are collecting samples from homogenous areas. This information also becomes important for other vineyard management tools like the placement of soil moisture probes and evapotranspiration sensors. Used in conjunction with our vigor maps, you can have confidence that the results from sampling, and data from these sensors are accurate and reflect actual field conditions.
4. Detect issues before they spread
Vigor mapping is a great tool for identifying areas of concern in a vineyard. For example, an area of extremely high vigor might indicate a water leak that needs attention, whereas an area showing very low vigor might be the result of nutrient deficiency or grapevine disease.
Interestingly, however, there are several common vine diseases which can be associated with high vigor levels as well. Powdery mildew, for example, tends to be associated with areas of high vigor. Similarly, mealybugs like to feed on the most vigorous vines, so they tend be the most susceptible to Grapevine Leafroll Disease.
VineView’s suite of scientifically calibrated vigor maps allow you to identify these areas of concern so you can respond to issues before they spread.
5. Optimize your pruning strategy
There are many theories surrounding how vine balance can best be achieved, but one of the most common ways of achieving vine balance is by pruning each plant the appropriate amount. Deciding how heavily to prune a vine is often dependent on how vigorous it is. More vigorous vines are able to handle a larger crop and should be pruned differently to optimize yield.
Even though there may not be one correct way to prune, having more information will help growers to best decide how they will prune. VineView’s Vine Metrics Package allows growers to analyze the vigor of each individual plant, which can guide their pruning operations and lead to improved yield and quality.