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Satellites Give European Winemakers an Advantage

A Little Help from the European Space Agency
 
The slopes of Frascati overlooking Rome boast rich, volcanic soils: wine has been produced there since time immemorial. But the latest vine crop is the best documented harvest ever.
 
Part of Frascati's home region was surveyed in ultra-sharp detail using an airborne radar sensor both before and after October's harvest. This two-stage European Space Agency campaign was called BACCHUS-DOC.
 
The initial radar flight took place at the beginning of October, and again at the end of October.  In the meantime the harvest took place.  Highly radar-visible corner reflectors were placed at places within the area to act as reference points.  The precise aircraft route was tracked using GPS backed up by an onboard navigation system.
 
For the second overflight when the grapes had been harvested, only the parameters of stable structures were the same, so only the variable elements were monitored - such as leaf height, distribution and dimensions, number of leaves per unit area, roughness and moisture of the terrain, and weed height.
 
Precise Data Produced
 
The main objective of BACCHUS-DOC was to investigate how sensitive the airborne and satellite radar imagery is to measurements of grape biomass, as well as additional useful factors for inventorying and characterizing vineyards such as vine rows, spacing and orientation, and vineyard limitations. The potential to estimate local soil roughness and moisture is also being assessed.
 
For centuries Europe has been one of the world's great wine producing regions, although cultivation practices are often inconsistent and expensive.  With global competition growing, Europe hopes to develop information tools that combine aerial and satellite imagery with GIS technology in support of vineyard management and improving wine quality.

By Rita Henry
Get Wine Jobs, Contributing Editor

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