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Portable Imaging Tool Will Transform Gravevine Pruning

Justine Vanden Heuvel holds the imaging system in a vineyard

Justine Vanden Heuvel, professor of viticulture at Cornell AgriTech, holds a prototype of the new imaging system.
Chris Kitchen / Cornell CALS

Pruning vines is one of the most important tasks of a viticulturist. If done improperly, the vine can produce yields that are either too high or too low, both of which pose risks. When yields are too high, sugars are low in fruits, making them poor wine grapes; when too low, fruit sales don’t cover the cost of production.

For many growers, however, it is difficult to know exactly which vines to prune. Yield is dependent on bud death, which can be hard to estimate before the growing season starts. Oftentimes, growers must manually cut nodes with a razor blade to sample and assess the percentage of bud damage, but this practice can damage vines and requires many hours of trained labor. 

In order to help growers increase their pruning accuracy, Cornell researchers are developing a high-tech, portable imaging system that will work to identify dead buds quickly and accurately. 

“We hope to have a thermal and multispectral imaging system that a grower can attach to an all-terrain vehicle and drive through their vineyard, and it will produce a map of live and dead buds that then can be used to guide their pruning practices,” Justine Vanden Heuvel, the project’s principal investigator and professor of viticulture at Cornell AgriTech, told the Cornell Chronicle. 

The two techniques — thermal and multispectral — will cross-check data and improve its accuracy. The technology will be integrated into a stand-alone system that can be easily attached to an ATV.

“Our goal is to develop an easy-to-use technology so that growers can drive by at a decent speed and have the system collect this data for them,” Vanden Heuvel said. 

Read more about this project in the Cornell Chronicle.


Talia Isaacson

Talia is originally from San Diego, CA, but her passion for agriculture mostly developed on the coast of Maine, where she lived and worked on an educational diversified farm throughout parts of her high school years. Since then, Talia has spent time working on various farms in both Vermont and Arkansas, which has further solidified her interest in small-scale agriculture and its myriad intersections with community welfare, environmental sustainability, and education. She is a senior in the English department at Cornell and began working for the Cornell Small Farms Program in early 2018. Talia also works for the Local & Regional Food Systems initiative.