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High-tech analysis of vineyard soil

MADISON, WI, NOVEMBER 20, 2003 Growing grapes for wine is tightly linked to soil moisture: too little, and the crop can be lost, but an oversupply of water tends to favor leaf development at the expense of fruit quality. It is often difficult to determine which portions of the vineyards require more or less irrigation due to California wine country's natural geologic variations that control the moisture in soil. These natural variations, which appear over short distances, hamper the ability to map soil moisture of an entire field using conventional measurement techniques. Enter GPR, or ground penetrating radar.

In recent years, many researchers have made progress in the use of GPR as an alternative for TDR, time domain reflectometers, for determining field-scale variations of soil water content. These early TDR sensors came about in the 1980s and utilized the influence of water on the velocity of electromagnetic waves to obtain accurate measurements of soil water content; however, assessment of an entire field remained a tedious task because of the need to install a large number of TDR sensors to adequately cover the field. To overcome these difficulties, scientists have used GPR methods to map a field's varied soil moisture, as in the case with the California vineyards.

GPR's high-resolution information can be used to improve vineyard development and management, such as to develop vineyards within uniform "blocks" of soil that have optimal properties, or to improve precision irrigation approaches, says Susan Hubbard, long-time GPR researcher.

"Soil water content information obtained from GPR data can be extremely useful for guiding many environmental, engineering, and agricultural applications, such as in wine making. This is one example of a successful GPR application, but many others can be imagined," she adds.

Hubbard recently joined a group of scientists to review the current state-of-the-art methods for determining soil wate
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Contact: Sara Uttech
suttech@agronomy.org
608-273-8080
American Society of Agronomy
20-Nov-2003


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