Tripling first-year table grape yields through smart irrigation
How SWAN Systems helped a Western Australian vineyard to increase yield, quality and profit margins.
Most grape growers would be aware that maintaining optimal soil moisture is essential for high quality grapes – not only to ensure the right amount of water is available, but also to allow vines to uptake the right amount of nutrients (and improve crop performance). What they might not be aware of is the role technology can play in optimising this; something that Western Australian table grape producer, Fruitico, decided to explore with a new site of table grapes in Hamel, south of Perth.
Being in competition with imported grapes from California, Fruitico knew they needed to produce better quality fruit ever before. At the start of the irrigation season in November 2017, they decided to use SWAN Systems to help them to optimise their water management at this site through smart technology.
It is generally known that to ensure the highest quality fruit, the timing and amount of irrigation must precisely match the vines’ needs. Traditionally, irrigators might have access to crop factors, recent weather observations, and soil moisture readings from tensiometers, gypsum blocks, neutron probes, and capacitance probes. The irrigator would use whichever of these tools were at their disposal to estimate irrigation requirements.
However, this is a time-consuming process… And not always accurate. SWAN Systems, as a provider of user-friendly irrigation technology, takes the same inputs and more, transforming them into useful water scheduling insights; faster and more accurately than is possible with manual methods. Unlike other irrigation management products, the software is designed to work with any hardware, enabling management at a ‘whole of farm’ level.
In addition, SWAN Systems forecasts the irrigation requirements for the coming week. These predictions are updated daily based on the current, known soil moisture status, the latest weather forecasts, and the existing irrigation plan. Soil moisture forecasts allow users to plan for specific weather or management events… In other words, proactive management, rather than set-and-forget.
Knowing this, the Fruitico team were keen to trial SWAN’s software on their new development. The ‘icing on the cake’ was the ability for their management team to remotely monitor and manage their vines via the SWAN System dashboard, meaning they didn’t always have to be on site to know what was going on.
So, most importantly, what were their yield results?
Typically, the first harvest of table grapes from young vines is not expected to yield more than 5 kg/vine. However, by using SWAN Systems, Fruitico were able to well exceed this; with vines producing an average of 18 kg (more than 3 times) of high-quality fruit in the first 18 months. More than 95% of this fruit was graded as first class, representing exceptional total yields considering the high planting density of over 1400 vines per hectare.
Since then, they have harvested an impressive 33kg per vine of first grade fruit, with less than 5% of fruit packed into second grade lines. Even more impressive is the fact that vine yields mixed with the vine numbers per hectare turns into an overall yield over 50 tonnes per hectare: an outstanding result for such a young site.
Displaying the power of data mixed with powerful ‘for purpose’ technology, this is just one example of how SWAN Systems have helped irrigators to make better decisions to improve yield, save money and time, and conserve resources. Fruitico have since expanded the use of SWAN Systems to all their vineyards in WA, as well as to those in Mildura, Victoria.
Want to learn more about how you can make data-backed decisions around water and nutrient allocation for your vineyard?