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Monday 27 February 2023

Drones a new weapon for wine grape growers

Drones could be set to become an important new tool for the wine industry.

Used for vineyard inspections and spraying, drones are being promoted as "changing vineyard management to make it safer, easier, and more efficient".

In Hawke's Bay in New Zealand, the XAG P100 Agricultural Drone - which has a large payload for spraying - is being used to help wine growers control fungal diseases with less water usage and reduced manual labour.

Powdery mildew is a key challenge to grape frowers and fungal spores are more rampant after excessive rainfalls, putting more pressure on growers.

Warren Gibson, manager of Bilancia Vineyard in Hawke's Bay, had trouble with how to spray safely and efficiently, and used drones from XAG.

Bilancia is located on a steep hillside block, where Gibson and his colleagues used to spray using a quad bike.

"On such sloped terrain, the previous way the job was done was getting too dangerous for us," Gibson said.

"And we would easily get covered in chemicals, risking our health. Efficiency was another problem with the two-hectare vineyard taking about three hours to cover using the quad bike."

Airborne Solutions, XAG's partner in New Zealand, initiated a drone spraying trial, creating a 3D topographic map with an XAG M500 Remote Sensing Drone, then using the XAG P100 Agricultural Drone to spray precisely according to the terrain.

The vineyard was sprayed with an hour.

"The P100 has a 40kg payload, so it is heavy enough to generate a strong downdraft when flown slowly and penetrate the vines," said drone pilot Scott Horgan. 

"With grape spraying, you need to cover every single piece of the plants, or else the vine will still get diseases." 

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