The system relies on the fact that reflectivity at different wavelengths can give information both about the vines’ foliage and the soil in which they are growing. The quantity of foliage is linked to the quality of the grapes because it is an indirect measure of the amounts of sugars and tannins contained in them. There is an ideal time to harvest each bunch, but not all bunches are ready at the same time. The satellite data cuts the vineyards into two-metre-square “pixels”, corresponding to about four vines each, and the software assigns each pixel a colour-coded “leaf area index”.
“If there is an even distribution of blue or red images in a field, the leaf area index suggests that the grapes can be harvested altogether,” said Oenoview programme manager Henri Douche. “But if the map shows defined red and blue areas, it helps the owner to care for and harvest sections of the fields to produce top quality wine.”
Julia Trustram Eve from English Wine Producers said: “Innovation is at the heart of the English wine industry and vineyard owners are keen to use technology that complements their wine-making skills. “Developing a pilot programme to use space technology is a smart and exciting next step.”
First published by the BBC on 03/11/09
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