GPS Technology in Local Vineyards

Photo Courtesy of Lake Erie Regional Grape Program.

Article Contributed by
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County

Kevin Martin, from the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (Penn State University), is currently creating baseline economic data to provide regional grape growers with commercialization strategies for spatial vineyard management. Baseline economic data will be used to measure the economic benefits of next generation vineyard technology. The local application of this technology focuses on the sustainability of the bulk juice industry. The industry stands to benefit from increasing average vineyard health while minimizing management inputs. Variable vineyard management offers the potential to increase yields or reduce vineyard input costs.

Spatial vineyard management requires the use of tractor mounted sensors logging sensor data and GPS location. Once data is reviewed, informed management decisions can be applied at a variable rate to the vineyard block. Variable rate management may involve targeted use of hand-labor or traditional vineyard maintenance equipment. Variable rate vineyard management may also involve modifying equipment and adding technology to allow the machine to manage vineyards differentially based on sensor data.

The adoption of technology may require substantial investment on the part of the grower. To maximize the benefits of technology, LERGP is working with grape growers to familiarize them with sensors and data management. “This work goes beyond mapping underperforming areas,” Martin states, “commercialization of technology is going to require increasing average yields in those areas to justify the investment in sensor and GPS technology. By surveying local growers and variability in their vineyard, we will begin to understand the potential economic impact sensor technology can have on our grape industry.”

Efficient Vineyard is a global effort to improve the performance of vineyards, particularly those geared toward bulk production. The project is funded by USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative. More information on the research and extension team, sensors and the project can be found at efficientvineyard.com

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is a cooperative effort between Cornell and Penn State Universities; the participating Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara and Cattaraugus Counties in New York and Erie County in Pennsylvania; and participating industry partners National Grape Cooperative (Welch’s), Constellation Brands and Walkers Fruit Basket. The LERGP extension team provides research-based educational programming for commercial grape growers throughout the year at venues across the Lake Erie grape belt. For more information on LERGP, call 716-792-2800 or visit our website at http://lergp.cce.cornell.edu/.