Wine industries are very important in several regions around the world. Typically when we hear about wines we think about France or Italy, but these are far from the only countries in the worlds that produce wine. This is well demonstrated by the University of Adelaide researchers, who recently developed new tool to manage grapevines. This application for smart devices is created to help grapegrowers and viticulturists manage their vines by giving a quick measure of vine canopy size and density.
Development of this program was a part of a much wider project, supported by Wine Australia. It is based around an assumption that there is a strong relationship between vine balance and wine quality. The app itself is called VitiCanopy and currently is available for the iPad and iPhone users for free.
The Android version is still being developed but should be released soon too. It uses several functions of the smart device, such as camera and GPS capability. It calculates the size and density of the vine canopy and its location in the vineyard. It is said that ultimately it will help the users of the VitiCanopy to monitor their vines and effectively manage the required balance between vegetative growth and fruit production, which is very important in the struggle for the best quality wine.
Dr Cassandra Collins, leader of this project, explained: “overcropped vines or vines with excessive canopy are referred to as ‘out-of-balance’ – generally being associated with lower quality fruit and hence lower returns. To achieve wine balance, grapevines require enough leaf area to ripen the fruit and produce a desired fruit quality, but not too much that it’s detrimental to fruit development through shading or a higher incidence of disease.” Therefore it is important to measure vine balance as it is pretty much the most important variable in the formula of producing good grapes, most suitable for making good wine.
In order to measure vine balance one needs to measure the ratio of leaf area to fruit yield. There are traditional ways of doing so, but they all seem to be tedious, laborious and time-consuming. Furthermore, they can even damage the vines. There are other ways, but they require expensive and complex instruments, which is why the development of the smartphone app was so important and good news for the grapegrowers.
The VitiCanopy app offers a very simple way to measure leaf area index with a phone that most of people have anyway. This data then can be used to detect correlation of leaf area and fruit yield for an assessment of vine balance as well as capture canopy variation across a vineyard. The app uses GPS of the smart device in order to map the gathered information. Ultimately, this app is supposed to help viticulturists optimise vine balance for best grape quality.
Camera is used to measure the ratio of leaf area to fruit yield, no additional equipment is needed. User simply has to take a picture of the vine canopy. The VitiCanopy app then will analyse the image, calculate the ratio of leaf area to fruit yield, taking into account the canopy shape and density, and will record time and location of the vine. The app was developed to help Australian winegrowers to improve their competitiveness by raising quality of the grapes.
Australian wine may not be as famous as some of competitors from Europe, but such innovations that industry is important for the government and scientists of the state. The VitiCanopy app is thought to help grapegrowers get the most from their vineyards and should improve quality of the wine as the end result.
However, because app is free and available globally, it will benefit all wine industries across the globe, which means that Australian wine industry will not get a competitive advantage because of it. But it is just a part of bigger project and we have to wait and see whether in the future Australian wine will be described with such positive words as its European counterparts.