Total Vineyard Solutions

November 2008
Total Vineyard Solutions (TVS) is a suite of consultancy services and products from Corbans Viticulture. Developed in 2007, it captures every aspect of vineyard development and management.

Technology and science are employed to convert data into knowledge, about the soil vines grow in, rootstocks, irrigation systems and viticulture systems to suit the environment.

Corbans Viticultures core business remains its nurseries, which provide high health grafted grape vines to the New Zealand grape industry. TVS is a subsidiary company, offering technical, viticulture and diagnostic consultancy, capturing every aspect of vineyard development and management.

Key services

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and the resources of New Zealand Landcare and management mapping specialist, Frontier Global, are at the core of Total Vineyard Solutions technical consultancy services.

Electro-Magnetic Induction (EMI) surveys indicate soil profile and variation across a site, helping to determine critical factors such as the capacity for each major soil zone to hold and transport water and minerals. It is a far more efficient way of assessing a site than the commonly used method of digging numerous holes, to view the soil profile. While TVS still recommends that soil pits are dug, these are in targeted areas where they clarify understanding of differing management zones.

A EM unit - a 1.8 metre long ski - is either towed behind a quad bike, mounted on the side, or in steeper situations, hand-held. Like a fish finder on a boat, the unit sends electronic signals into the soil at different frequencies, with each frequency working at a different depth, building a picture of what lies beneath.

There are two sets of readings. Electro Conductivity (EC), reflects physical properties of the soil such as water holding capacity, porosity and cation exchange capacity. Magnetic Susceptibility (MS) can sometimes help in fingerprint compositional properties that may be influencing the EC, such as historic chemical residues and salinity. MS profiles are also affected by textural elements

This system is used alongside GPS for mapping contours, boundaries and other cartographic details. Precise planting areas and thus materials needed can be calculated.

Multi-Spectral Imaging (MSI) is used for vegetation profiling and mapping. Specialised cameras measure light penetration of plant cells. Factors such as canopy density, sugar levels, vine growth, nutrient and/or disease problems and irrigation can be highlighted. Corbans Viticulture has the exclusive license to provide MSI data from Specterra (Australias leading provider of airborne imagery) in New Zealand. MSI images are taken from a plane.

Cartography technology converts site data into a variety of maps including block, row and plant layouts. Infrastructure detail is provided as well as accurate distance and area measurements.

Satellite imaging can be arranged, involving a satellite fly-over to photograph the property.

3D computer modeling provides three-dimensional depictions of a vineyard to help with planting layout or provide a virtual tour.

Regional mapping provides vineyard maps by district, region or country.

From vineyard planning to maintenance

TVS services can be applied at any stage of vineyard preparation, from identifying suitable sites for planting to vineyard planning, development and maintenance.

Site selection

An EMI survey will indicate soil profile at various depths; viticulture management zones (e.g. stony vs. clay sites); animal, crop and fertiliser history; and areas of particular promise or potential concern.

The data can be used to create a contour map, which identifies changes in soil zones enabling the selection of suitable root stocks, irrigation and frost protection systems and nutrient applications. Identifying areas with high mineral salts, a high water table or other problems means remedial work can be carried out or that spot avoided altogether.

Vineyard design

EMI surveys and contour mapping are useful when planning irrigation, drainage and frost protection systems. A virtual vineyard can be created, to help visualise the design so changes can be made before work begins on-site.

GPS technology can be used to calculate individual and total row lengths; the quantity of wire, posts, plants and irrigation required; the size of blocks to be planted; and hazardous areas.

This saves time and money, optimising the use of materials. The level of accuracy provided, ensures an exact layout for ripping and row alignment.

Knowledge adds value to vineyard investment

As vineyard development extends into increasingly marginal areas, gathering data such as sunshine hours, frost proneness and soil types ahead of planting becomes increasingly important, says Hamish Howard, technical consultant, Total Vineyard Solutions, Corbans Viticulture.

In Marlborough, vineyard rows are generally oriented north south to capture the sun but soil profiles change east to west because that is the way rivers run. Knowing where soil types change, means vineyard developers can select appropriate rootstocks to grow quality wines.

EMI surveys sometimes identify areas not suitable for planting. Recently, for example, TVS surveyed an apparently dry area close to a river where in fact water was flowing only 1.5 metres below the soil surface. In this case, the developer believed his eyes rather than the survey results, so went ahead and ripped the soil. Water rapidly bubbled up to the surface causing major drainage problems.

It can be frustrating when someone pays you for advice then doesnt take it, Hamish admits. Usually, the cost of tailoring vineyard development to the differing management zones is minimal compared with the investment already made in buying the land.

Post establishment

An EMI survey can be used to identify variability throughout the vineyard; while an MSI survey highlights above-ground issues so corrective steps can be taken. This data can be superimposed on existing images to highlight contours, irrigation and wind-flow patterns.