Vineyard irrigation scheduling based on airborne thermal imagery and water potential thresholds

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Background and Aims:

Mapping the spatial variability of vine water status within a vineyard is necessary for the efficient management of irrigation water. The objective of this study was to determine whether estimates of remotely sensed leaf water potential (Ψrem) could be employed as a precise tool for scheduling irrigation at the irrigation sector level throughout the season.

Methods and Results:

Three irrigation treatments were applied in a 16-ha commercial vineyard to analyse the performance of the proposed methodology for monitoring regulated deficit irrigation strategies, and to evaluate the required frequency of the acquisition of thermal images for irrigation scheduling. An aircraft equipped with a thermal sensor flew over the vineyard throughout the season, and the averaged Ψrem of each irrigation sector was used as the irrigation trigger. The acquisition of about five or six Ψrem maps over the season is recommended. The starting date for acquiring thermal images depends on canopy vegetation size and on the difficulty of extracting pure vegetation pixels. The effect of acquiring thermal imagery on days after rainfall or with low vapour pressure deficits affected the estimation of Ψrem, and these constraints need to be considered for feasible irrigation purposes.


Remotely sensed leaf water potential was successfully used as an irrigation trigger to adopt regulated deficit irrigation strategies without any negative effect on yield and wine composition.

Significance of the Study:

This study presented a promising and powerful method for scheduling irrigation throughout the season at vineyard level based on estimates of remotely sensed leaf water potential.

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