Aircraft pictures helping productivity of Coonawarra vineyards

Cameras attached to fixed-wing aircraft are providing data to viticulturists which is helping to identify canopy temperature – in order to improve water use and wine quality.

The pilot project – which has been part funded by the State Government – is helping researchers learn how to reduce vine water stress and improve nutrient status so better irrigation decisions can be made. The Innovative Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated Project is being undertaken at 21 vineyards.

The collected data includes chlorophyll levels, vine canopy temperatures and vine growth. It is being converted into maps on a block by block basis. Coonawarra viticulturists are using the technology with the assistance of researchers from the University of Adelaide.

Project leader and viticulturist at Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate Dr Cath Kidman said information collected in the early stages of the project is already having a positive impact

“We’re now gaining ‘real time’ information which means that growers can potentially make strategic irrigation decisions a whole lot earlier than previously possible,” she said.

“This is all about working as a community to innovate and enhance grape and wine quality, whilst conserving Coonawarra’s precious groundwater.”

Katnook Estate Vineyard manager Chris Brodie said the initial flyover revealed some areas under stress.

“In response to that information, we replaced 50 irrigation lines and a second flight indicated that the affected vines are already showing signs of recovery,” he said.

“Access to actual vine water stress information in a timely and relevant way means that our company can use water more efficiently and potentially improve the quality of our wine.

“I think the information obtained from this project will provide many unforseen benefits. I can use this data in so many ways, enabling me to undertake actions this year and in coming years.”

Agriculture minister Leon Bignell said the research is helping growers not only understand their vineyards better but is also potentially saving water use.

“It is a great project and I would like to thank the Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated for embarking on it, as well as the wineries who are taking part from across the region,” he said.

A final report on the results of the trial flights and data gathering is due next month. For further information on the Coonawarra remote sensing project visit

In 2014-15 South Australia’s Gross Wine Revenue was $1.78 billion, with the state’s winemakers producing 507 million litres of wine worth $1.6 billion. In 2014-15 the farm gate value of grapes rose by 11% to $470 million.

RESEARCH: Wayne Stehbens, Dr Pagay, Cath Kidman and Chris Brodie conduct a review of a Coonawarra vineyard using the aircraft cameras.

RESEARCH: Wayne Stehbens, Dr Pagay, Cath Kidman and Chris Brodie conduct a review of a Coonawarra vineyard using the aircraft cameras.