VRI Scheduling System

Summary: Vineyards face climate change, increasing temperatures, and drought affecting vine water status. Water deficit affects plant physiology and can ultimately decrease yield and grape quality when it is not well managed. Monitoring vine water status and irrigation can help growers better manage their vineyards. However, when field measurements, such as stem water potentials (SWP), can be precise, they are time-consuming. In addition, they do not allow for easy assessment of spatial variability, which is a critical factor for water status management. Remote sensing tools can help map plant water status in space and time and streamline data acquisition over whole vineyards several times during the season. In this project, we monitored a variably irrigated vineyard several times during the season with a hyperspectral NIR/SWIR camera mounted on a UAV. We worked in a Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley of California equipped with an automated irrigation system. We created forty-eight independent watering zones and applied twelve different amounts of water replicated four times in a randomized block scheme. Water amounts were fractions of the grower allocation and applied as sustained and regulated deficit irrigation strategies. Hyperspectral images in 112 bands from 900 nm to 1700 nm were collected using a UAV every two weeks from June to harvest. Contemporarily, we measured vine water status through SWP, stomatal conductance (gs) and net assimilation (AN). For the analysis, the images were segmented to extract the canopy signal and converted to reflectance, then used to predict the field water status measurements using machine learning models. Models were evaluated using coefficients of determination (R2 ), and root mean square error (RMSE). Feature importance was also computed to determine the importance of each band in the model. Field measurements of stem water potential ranged from -2.0 to -1.14 MPa. The canopy signal was segmented from the soil background using a classifier with an accuracy of 99.7%. We tested random forest, gradient boosting machine, and support vector machine algorithms in a preliminary analysis to predict SWP values. The most performant model was the random forest, and it was able to predict SWP values with an R2 of 0.6 and an RMSE of 0.1 MPa as assessed in a 5-fold crossvalidation procedure. The most important bands for model prediction were 1146 nm, 1153 nm, 1321 nm, 1363 nm, and 1434 nm, all situated in water absorption domains. These promising results demonstrate that SWIR images can monitor the field’s vine water status and inform irrigation management with high resolution. Besides the work on remote sensing, we took advantage of the irrigation trial to determine the primary effects of sustained and regulated deficit irrigation on plant water status, berry composition, gas exchange, and yield components. There was little to no effect of irrigation treatment on plant performance and overall quality. The results of this study did follow the general trends for grapevines in semi-arid environments, although continued data acquisition is needed to assess the carry-over effect of water reduction on plants. As the drought conditions become more familiar to California grapevine growers, the need for effective water management solutions has heightened. Understanding the physiological responses of the plant at various intensities and timings can still provide great context for more advanced developments.