We recently held a seminar and field day at the UC Davis campus called "Current Developments in Vineyard Mechanization and Precision Viticulture" on April 22, 2016. Some of the underlying themes included labor issues and the looming increases in California's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.
Dr. Kaan Kurtural, the UC Davis Extension Specialist in Viticulture, organized and moderated the daylong event held at UC Davis Conference Center. The seminar and field day were attended by 166 people.
Kurtural opened the meeting with vineyard operations that can be conducted mechanically such as dormant pruning, shoot thinning and leaf removal. He introduced the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative grant that was awarded to Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon and University of California Davis--the aim of which is to develop precision vineyard management tools leading to variable rate management.
The program continued with Dr. Andrew McElrone of USDA-ARS presenting on new tools to schedule vineyard irrigation using management factors. Dr. David Block, Chair of Viticulture and Enology presented his team's work on single-vine irrigation using remotely sensed NDVI data to schedule irrigation. Then Dr. Jean-Jacques Lambert delivered a talk on precision management of vineyard soils.
Dr. James Kennedy of Polyphenolics Inc. spoke about managing phenolic composition of mechanically managed vineyards and how to handle them at the crush pad. Dr. Olena Sambucci of Agriculture Economics (also from University of California) presented economic gains that may be achieved by vineyard managers under different precision and mechanical management scenarios.
Dr. Ryan Billings, an Assistant Development Engineer in the Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering presented his work on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to conduct cover sprays in vineyards. The afternoon program was capped by field demonstrations in the Robert Mondavi Vineyard of equipment that is available for mechanical vineyard manipulation: recirculating sprayers and irrigation schedulers.