What are they and can they help in the vineyard? The future is here and new devices help save costs. Precision Agriculture and Sustainable Agriculture can have big advantages on small plots.
Another tool to adapt precision agricultural practices in your vineyard may be to become airborne! Satellite images that are useful and provide NDVI images (normalized difference vegetation index) a indication of the plants photosynthetic activity. Unfortunately the distance these satellite photo are taken from don't provide enough definition for small plots.
That is where small UAVs are becomeing popular tools for small operators. Images taken by cameras modified to capture the infared spectrum can be processed and provide a map of regions of differences in growth. These areas can then be treated as separate blocks in the vineyard. Soil samples to determine nutrient needs are usually collected randomly across the plot. When infared photos show different areas of growth, those areas can be sampled independently. Often a sample of the entire plot can show sufficient phosphoros, for example, but when separated into smaller areas will indicate a need to amend.
Another use of defining different growth areas is when taking samples for harvest. Samples taken from each zone may determine that harvest dates should be different to ensure grapes are picked at their optimum numbers.
The SMWGA is conducting trials with UAVs and hope to have a report ready by summer 2016.