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  • Cornell AgriTech
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
Advancing insights on precision agriculture for vineyards across New York state and the world, The Efficient Vineyard (EV) Project has hit a new user milestone.

Every day, vineyard managers from all over the world benefit from The Efficient Vineyard (EV) Project, which provides spatial data, research and information to help growers increase their yield and fruit quality. In operation since 2005, the project has reached a new milestone: over 1,000 farm users, according to Terry Bates, director of the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory, which is part of Cornell AgriTech.

EV integrates several areas of research in its approach to precision viticulture that can be broken down into three methods: measure, model and manage. Sensors provide visual spatial patterns in the vineyard; the EV software imports, processes and validates the sensor data with in-field measurements; and multiple layers of vineyard information lead to better-informed management decisions. An example of this would be a variable-rate fertilizer that automatically puts down more or less fertilizer, up and down the rows, based on the spatial data.

“New tools that help the bottom line are welcomed by growers,” said Bates, who leads the project. “The proper use of sensors identifies the unseen spatial patterns in vineyards and allows growers to respond with variable-rate management. This leads to more uniform, predictable and sustainable production – and profitability.”

Along with an increasing number of growers enrolling in EV, the scope of the information it provides has also increased. Bates explained that in viticulture, the goal is to improve vineyard balance of vine vegetative growth and crop size.

“The highest yield is not always the optimum yield for fruit quality or return crop potential,” he said. Participants in EV have reported improved vine balance, leading to more consistent yields and better fruit quality over time.

Access to spatial data is especially helpful in western New York, one of the world’s largest Concord grape growing regions in terms of vineyard acreage. “Since many of the vineyard soils in New York were formed by glaciers, there is a relatively high degree of environmental variation within vineyard blocks,” Bates said. “Spatial sensor data allows vineyard managers to visualize vineyard variation that is not readily visible to the naked eye.”

EV got its start in 2012 when the National Grape and Wine Initiative funded a pilot study on spatial vineyard crop mapping. Currently, the most intensive use of EV is in the Lake Erie and Finger Lakes regions, followed by vineyards in California’s Napa Valley. There are pockets of users in New Zealand, Australia and France. Bates is confident in the future of EV, which is funded by the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. “The industry has just scratched the surface with digital viticulture tools,” he said.

While some growers use EV for basic information, others delve into its more sophisticated tools, such as using a spatial soil map to make decisions on fertilizer or lime applications, or to build a profit map to see what sections of the vineyard are making or losing money.

“It’s an eye-opener for us,” said Rich Jozwiak, operations director of AgriAmerica, in Silver Creek New York, which has over 400 acres of Concord, Niagara, Catawba and Elvira grapes. Jozwiak shared that recently a broken post was identified from spatial data. Instead of having to search through 77 rows, workers accessing EV and their smartphones were able to locate the problem within minutes and address it. 

Jozwiak, whose father bought the Silver Creek land in the 1960s, admits he had some hesitancy adapting to the new technology. But he’s come on board.

“You can use it to help with your problems,” he said. “I can see where it is going to be very beneficial.”

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