RoboGrape its already a prototype!

A robot prototype for vineyard labor and vine-to-vine care


From the oven (New research paper): “Effect of elevated temperature on the onset and rate of mesocarp cell death in berries of Shiraz and Chardonnay and its relationship with berry shrivel”

“Effect of elevated temperature on the onset and rate of mesocarp cell death in berries of Shiraz and Chardonnay and its relationship with berry shrivel” 


Marcos Bondada (University of Adelaide – INTA Argentina); Victor Sadras (SARDI) and

Sigfredo Fuentes (University of Adelaide – University of Melbourne)



Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research.

This paper show results of the effect of elevated temperature on the dynamics of berry cell death and shrivel for two varieties: Shiraz and Chardonnay.

These two varieties have contrasting dynamics of berry cell death and shrivel. The first can reach important levels of Shrivel at harvest with moderate mesocarp cell death in berries, while Chardonnay reaches high levels of cell death with minimal shrivelling symptoms.

Figure 1: Differences between Shiraz and Chardonnay in cell death and shrivel. Bright sections of the mesocarp corresponds to living tissue and dark areas to dead tissue. Images obtained using FDA stain (Fuentes et al. 2010).

Elevated temperature accelerated both mesocarp cell death and berry shrivelling in Shiraz and accelerated mesocarp cell death but had no impact on shrivel in Chardonnay. Mesocarp cell death seems necessary but not sufficient to explains berry shrivelling. Awareness of functional links between berry shrivel and mesocarp cell death, and the environmental modulation of these traits would likely contribute to management practices that could reduce the severity of shrivel in a context of warmer conditions.

Figure 2: Time-trajectory of mesocarp cell death. for Shiraz berries in the study of Tilbrook and Tyerman (2008). The bilateral model fitted to the data (eq. 2) has three biologically relevant parameters:  (the onset of rapid cell death), b1 (slope before the onset) and b2 (slope after the onset).

Drones used for research and commercial purposes under CASA regulations

Figure: Octocopter carrying an SLR camera.

The VoF considers the use of drone technology for image capturing and analysis and remote sensing using hyperspectral, infrared and visible (RGB) cameras.

Increased use of drones for research and commercial use are under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Australia, which according to commercial companies is too broad and needs to be more specific.

A new episode from the Technology Quarter (ABC) shows different uses for these drones and the concerns from commercial companies for their use. It aslo shows the concerns from the public related to privacy issues for civil use.

More news about drones and Journalism from Channel 9:

The rise of drones by Channel 7:


2D and 3D soil wetting and nutrient patterns tool

This post describes the development of a 2D and 3D soil wetting and nutrient pattern tool that will be part of The Vineyard of The Future project.

This figure shows the wetting patterns obtained using the tool that interpolates soil moisture data within the root-zone. Figures from top left to right show a five-hour irrigation even on a sandy-loam soil before the irrigation, and consecutively after each hour of the irrigation event. The black parabolic line corresponds to the results obtained from numerical models (using WetUp, CSIRO) for the soil and irrigation specific conditions of the experiment.

A video showing a demo of a real time soil wetting pattern dynamics in an irrigation event can be seen here:

Since this tool can interpolate different data values, a fertigation event can also been visualised. This animation corresponds ta a five-hour fertigation event on a sandy-loam soil planted with 5-years-old Shiraz grapevines. Blue colours correspond to more salinity levels (nutrients) and red/yellow colours with less salinity levels. Note that most of the fertiliser added is extracted from the first 30 cm of depth, which correspond to the location of fine roots (more permeable to nutrients).

This tool will be commercially available soon through Sentek Pty. Ltd. (

Our group is currently working in the creation of a 3D wetting and nutrient pattern tool to visualise dynamics of water and nutrients in a defined soil volume.

Nocturnal transpiration could become an important source of water losses in a climate change scenario for grapevines

Nocturnal transpiration currently corresponds to 15-50% of total water loss compared to diurnal transpiration, depending on the environmental conditions, for grapevines. This phenomenon could be exacerbated in a climate change scenario, which predicts that nocturnal temperatures will increase at a higher rate compared to diurnal temperatures (IPCC 2010). Since nocturnal transpiration is not associated to photosynthesis it contributes to reduce water use efficiency. This research area will be one of the main focuses of the VoF, which will aim to develop irrigation and management techniques to reduce transpiration and to maximise refill or night-time re-hydration.

The hypothesis that nocturnal transpiration will decrease as diurnal plant water stress increases was tested on the Tempranillo and 6 other cultivars in Mallorca – Spain. Recently, a paper describing results and conclusions from this study has been accepted for publication in the Agricultural Water Management Journal.

Escalona J., Fuentes S., Tomas M., Martorell S., Flexas J., Medrano H. 2012. Responses of leaf night respiration and transpiration to water stress in Vitis vinifera L. Agricultural Water Management (Accepted).

“Development of a novel canopy architecture-monitoring App for smartphones and tablet computers”

Dr Sigfredo Fuentes and Dr Roberta De Bei

This project, financed by the Wine 2030 (The University of Adelaide), aims to produce an accurate and cheap imaging and analysis tool available to grape growers and researchers to assess automatically spatio-temporal canopy architecture parameters using smartphones and tablet computers with high-resolution cameras and GPS capabilities. Therefore, field measurements can be mapped using GIS techniques. These parameters allow monitoring canopy growth and porosity to assess vigour, water requirements and sunlight transmission to the fruit and renewal zone of the canopy, which are important parameters to obtain grape quality attributes. Mapping capabilities will allow the zoning of different parameters to assess spatial differences of the same. This project is based on early research findings from The Vineyard of the Future (VoF) initiative. All revenues from the app will be reinvested in VoF research projects. The app will be commercially available in late 2012. This app has the advantage that it can be applied not only for grapevines, but also for a range of other crops and trees, such as apple trees, olive trees, forests, etc. Full story at:

Related publication: Fuentes, S., Palmer, A.R., Taylor, D., Zeppel, M., Whitley, R., Eamus, D. 2008. An automated procedure for estimating the leaf area index (LAI) of woodland ecosystems using digital imagery, Matlab® programming and its application to an examination of the relationship between remotely sensed and field measurements of LAI. Functional Plant Biology. 35:1-10.

Automated Infrared thermography analysis available as part of the VoF

A paper has been published in the Irrigation Science Journal that describes the development of a semi-automated and automated methodology for IR thermal image acquisition and analysis using programming techniques in MATLAB. The paper also includes a discussion of potential use of infrared thermal images for early detection of diseases.

Fuentes, S., De Bei, R. Pech, J., Tyerman, S. 2012. Computational water stress indices obtained from thermal image analysis of grapevine canopies. Irrigation Science. DOI: 10.1007/s00271-012-0375-8.

Link to the paper: IR Thermo Fuentes

Related paper: Fuentes S., Kelley G., Collins J., Rogers G., Conroy J. 2005. Use of Infrared Thermography to Assess Spatial and Temporal Variability of Stomatal Conductance of Grapevines Under Partial Root-zone Drying. An Irrigation Scheduling Application. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS) 689:309-316.