Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
03.29.2013  
 

Conserving Water with Vineyard Sensors

Experts at Napa workshop discuss reducing vineyard water use

 
by Andrew Adams
 
 
mule
 
A small Kawasaki Mule is equipped with sensors and a LIDAR unit for evaluating canopy shape.
Napa, Calif.—Using irrigation in the vineyard is less about ensuring growth and more about applying the right amount of water at the right time. The same could be said about water conservation in general.

At a recent water conservation workshop organized by staff from Napa County Flood Control and the Water Resources Department in the theater of the former Copia center, several experts discussed ways to reduce water use.

Mark Matthews, a professor with the University of California, Davis, described a wide-ranging project by professors at Davis and other western universities to develop irrigation systems that use sensors and a central control system to apply water exactly when it’s needed. (See "Precision Sensors Monitor Winegrape Water.")

Matthews said it’s well documented that vines become too vigorous with too much water, resulting in a green sprawl that yields poor-quality grapes. “You can grow a hell of a bunch with too much water and too many nutrients,” he said.

Stressing vines helps produce concentrated clusters that make better wine, he said, pointing to a photo of a vine with yellow leaves but well-formed grapes. “These vines look ragged, and in fact they ripen a crop,” he said. The challenge is creating just enough stress while maintaining enough green leaf surface area to provide photosynthesis and push the grapes past the ripeness finish line.

Mathews said researchers at Davis are experimenting with indirect micrometeorological instruments that constantly monitor the temperature changes and water loss. He said they’re measuring transpiration using a Krypton anemometer that can detect the minute eddies generated from the canopy and infrared cameras can measure leaf temperature.

Researchers are also using a small Kawasaki Mule vehicle equipped with sensors to evaluate the shaded areas of the canopy while a LIDAR system catalogs its shape. A GPS unit and data logger will collect the information so growers “know exactly how much water is needed where.”

Mike Delwiche, also with UC Davis, is working with Camalie Networks’ eKo Pro sensors to develop a sensor-driven irrigation-control system. Sensors monitor soil moisture and relay signals to a control node that can open valves releasing irrigation water. Mathews said a vineyard system would need some type of controls to adjust for applying varying amounts of water to different parts of the row.  

Recycled water
Earlier in the month, ratepayers in the Los Carneros Water District that includes the Napa County side of the Carneros AVA approved a rate increase to raise $1.14 million for designing a 9-mile pipeline that will eventually carry water to the region.

If the project passes another round of ratepayer approval after the pipe is designed, growers in the Carneros district could have access to 1,250 acre-feet of recycled water per year.

At the conservation workshop, Dr. Stephen Grattan, a plant-water specialist with the University of California, Davis, described a study he helped conduct to gauge the feasibility of using recycled water for grapevine irrigation.

Grattan tested soil samples from a vineyard that had been irrigated with recycled water for eight years as well as compared water samples from surface and well sources to recycled water. The test revealed nothing of concern with the recycled water.

He said the water posed no significant threat of increasing the salinity or putting vines at risk from chlorine or boron toxicity.

The water, however, would be a “dilute fertilizer” delivering about 14-21 pounds per acre of nitrogen per irrigation season. Grattan said growers using recycled water for irrigation would need to keep that in mind and adjust their cover crops and fertilizer use. “Others, on the other hand, could look on it as a benefit and cut back on nitrogen amendments,” he said.  

Extended sheep grazing
Holistic farming expert Kelly Mulville suggested growers could not only improve their vineyard soils but conserve water by allowing sheep to graze in their vineyards.

Mulville described a 2009 vineyard trial in which he kept sheep grazing in a vineyard past bud break. To keep the hungry sheep out of the canopy of the vineyards, Mulville said he installed an electric wire near the fruit zone in the canopy. He said when developing a vineyard for extended grazing it’s necessary to train vines to 52-54 inches to ensure the sheep can not eat the canopy.

Left to their own devices, Mulville said the sheep wander through the vineyard creating paths, causing soil compaction and will actually eat the same patches of weeds repeatedly rather than graze the entire property. Mulville said a herd of about 200 animals per acre should be contained in small areas and then moved methodically through other parts of the property. That ensures the ground can recover, and it better replicates the tight bunching of herd animals in the wild.

After the extended grazing trial, Mulville said the vineyard needed 80% less irrigation, produced 1.2 more tons per acre and the wine made from that vintage tasted better as well. The water savings were actually an unexpected side benefit. “I think when you work with nature you get all these spiraling benefits.” 

SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 $562 million
5%
$7,549 million
6%
June 2013 $535 million $7,094 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 $87 million
17%
$1,669 million
11%
June 2013 $74 million $1,510 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 300
34%
220
21%
June 2013 224 182
     
 
MORE » Released on 07.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wines & Vines
Packaging Conference
 
Learn More »
 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • July 24-27
     
    Taste our Terroir
     
  • July 25-27
     
    International Pinot Noir Celebration
     
  • July 26
     
    Introduction to Wine Analysis
     
  • July 26-27
     
    Anderson Valley Barrel Tasting
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
All these arguments could be levied by any industry associated with any gTLD, new or...
Reader: Doug Barnett
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
Do brands get hijacked now? Even though .wine does not yet exist, are there false...
Reader: Larry Chandler
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Roundup is not benign. It does not always break down in a day or two...
Reader: Robert Rex
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Mitigating water use in the vineyard in the first place is also an applicable tactic....
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Having managed vineyards that have used both approaches, I would say that a diverse approach...
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Sourcing And Supply Ca...
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 Hospitality Associate ...
 Kenwood, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Farm Mechanic
 Napa, CA
Vineyards
 Wines Sales Representa...
 Los Angeles, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Accounts Payable Clerk
 Napa, CA
Finance
 Sales Representative
 American Canyon, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Director, Sales Chain ...
 Seattle, WA
Sales and Marketing
 Logistics Coordinator
 Rutherford, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Sales Representative
 Buffalo Grove, IL
Sales and Marketing
 Harvest Intern (Paid)
 Woodinville, WA
Winemaking and Production
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.