CropWatch improvements

As foreshadowed recently, Riverland Wine has been working with Magarey Pathology to make improvements and add new features to the disease-alert system delivered under the CropWatch banner for many years.

CropWatch has mainly focussed on Downy Mildew providing information to members about the probability of primary and secondary infections. These alerts have used weather information from a network of weather stations across the Region. Peter has interpreted the data and published a newsletter offering advice on best responses. The benefits to the region have been enormous. The system has enabled Riverland growers to take action to mitigate against crop losses and to make better decisions regarding that most important of questions, the if and when to spray for Downy.

It is not smart to spray unnecessarily. Neither is it smart NOT to spray when there is a disease risk. CropWatch has taken much of the guesswork out of these decisions.

However as good as it is, there is room for improvement. It’s a two-step process which to be finalised by the end of the upcoming vintage.

Step is complete.   Alerts for Bunch Rots and Powdery Mildew have been added. This is a complex exercise as the specific response of these diseases, to the various weather conditions must be accurately defined and incorporated into the decision system. While not yet perfect, it is well on the way. The outcome will be more information about all the main vine diseases and advice on best methods of control. Accuracy will improve over time as more and more data is collected but this is a big step in the right direction.

The NEXT stage will be to automate the system so that alerts generated will be sent directly to members mobiles or email. This will happen immediately after the nearest weather station (to the member’s property) receives data that signals disease risk. So, the alerts will be very specific to close-by vineyard and therefore more accurate. Funds received by Riverland Wine from Wine Australia have made all this work possible and it will be up and running within 12 months.

Closely aligned to these developments is another good-news project; the installation of more automatic weather stations to provide more comprehensive coverage across the region’s vineyards. Riverland Wine is currently working with the NRM Board to install these and they will be operational for the 2019 growing season! More on this as soon as they are operational.

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