THE DRONE AT THE SERVICE OF VITICULTURE

An amendment was adopted on 13 April 2018 by two MEPs, Antoine Herth and Thierry Benoit. It stipulates that an "experiment on the use of unmanned aircraft for aerial spraying of plant protection products will be carried out on agricultural areas planted with vines and with a slope of 30% or more, for a maximum period of three years". The text is intended to allow tests of the use of UAVs, as opposed to conventional methods which are not very effective in the case of steeply sloping or difficult-to-access terrain.

Better targeting and limiting losses in order to optimize inputs: these are the essential objectives for rethinking spraying, at a time when the reduction of phytosanitary products is transforming agricultural practices.

DRONE ADVANTAGE

  • very limited applicator exposure
  • reduced drift due to ground-placed jets
  • Lowering the rate of product used (up to four times less than a ground application)
  • precise, low-level flights (approx. 2.5 m)
  • possibility to treat small and/or uneven plots of land
  • ease of use
  • very low noise
  • major technological advances (especially on autonomy)

In recent years, the use of drones has been increasing. Indeed, these tools are more and more efficient. The wine sector now uses this technology. For the past two years, drones have been used in the vineyards of prestigious châteaux to map the vigour of the vine stocks to help harvest grapes at optimum maturity.

THE CONCEPT OF PRECISION VITICULTURE

is very topical, particularly with the Grenelle Environment Forum. If improving productivity is one of the advances of "Precision Viticulture", reducing the environmental impact is an unavoidable objective. New Information and Communication Technologies (NICT) make it possible to envisage solutions. Research in this field is increasingly numerous and is the subject of significant advances for intra-plot management with aerial tools, portable tools for punctual measurements and sampling, for immediate action during the task. This communication presents some notable aspects of these advances.

WHAT'S THE POINT OF DRONES?

In the past, the most prestigious vineyards used helicopters. But these tools were expensive and polluting.

So drones come at the right time in the race to protect the environment. They also offer a high degree of precision to help winegrowers.

With photos taken throughout the year, winegrowers can adapt their work to the daily routine and act quickly.

Moreover, according to specialists, the main competitors of drones - i.e. the Spot-5 or Formosat-2 satellites - cannot operate when the sky is not clear.

The UAV offers another advantage over the satellite, that of "differentiating between vines and grass between rows", thus avoiding "confusing the water stress of the vines with that of the grass".

Less constraining and more precise, the drones in turn come to support the winegrowers.

HOW DO DRONES WORK?

The machines will fly over the vineyard and take pictures. The resulting infrared map will then help to determine the optimal maturity of the grapes, and will therefore allow to schedule the harvest if necessary. "If, for example, we see that at the end of the plot the vine is less vigorous, we will send a team of pickers to harvest it".

These maps, which record the chlorophyll activity of the vine leaves, have become precision indicators that certain Bordeaux grands crus no longer want to do without, such are their multiple and precious applications: fertilisation management in spring, soil maintenance and pruning during the winter, grape harvesting in autumn.

Of course, winegrowers recognize that the drone can't do everything, such as laboratory analyses (acidity, sugar, phenolic concentration) and tastings of grapes on the vine, which remain fundamental.

VITICULTURE THERMOGRAPHY

In agriculture and particularly in viticulture, different types of stress (hydric, nitrogen, pest...) can be diagnosed early on plants, thanks to infrared thermography. These phenomena can be symptoms of various diseases and infections. The aim of thermographic analysis on vines is to identify the source of symptoms early enough and thus be able to prevent growth and productivity problems by appropriate phytosanitary treatments.

Infrared thermography is also used on living organisms, with the aim of establishing diagnoses on the state of health of plants, animals and humans.

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