The Crush - July 2020 - 1

theCrush
Volume 47 Issue 7 July 2020

[ FEATURE STORY ]

New Tools to Monitor Grapevine Water Status
VINE SENSOR, PHONE APP OFFER MORE EFFICIENCY AND DATA
By Ted Rieger
New commercial products were launched this year in California
vineyards to estimate grapevine water status for irrigation
management as easier-to-use alternatives to the traditional
pressure chamber tool (also called a "pressure bomb"). The
companies behind the products originated from university
research teams - one from Cornell University in New York
and one from the University of California, Davis (UCD) - that
developed technologies to assist with irrigation management.
These technologies allow growers to gather more vine water
status data from more locations and gather information more
efficiently with less labor, and potentially at lower cost, than
taking pressure bomb readings.
FLORAPULSE VINE SENSOR
Davis-based FloraPulse produces and supports sensor
technology, also called micro-tensiometers, installed in
grapevine trunks to provide continuous measurement of stem
water potential (SWP), with data automatically transmitted
to the grower for irrigation decision-making. The sensor was
developed using microchip technology by a Cornell research
team that included now emeritus plant science professor Dr.
Alan Lakso, chemical and biomolecular engineering faculty
member Dr. Abraham Stroock, and mechanical engineering
Ph.D. student Michael Santiago. Santiago subsequently helped
found FloraPulse to license the patents and commercialize the
technology and serves as company CEO.
Field trials were conducted with the sensors in California
vineyards and orchards from 2017-2019, with more extensive
beta testing in 2019. The technology has improved based on field
trials. The 2020 product is faster, more reliable and with
improved quality control and pre-release
testing. The product is being sold as an
annual subscription service that includes
the sensor probe, datalogger, installation

Installed FloraPulse sensor in a vine trunk at a UCD field trial. Photo: Ted Rieger

supplies, cloud-based cellular data, and user interface with
records and graphs. FloraPulse will replace sensors after one
season of use, but is evaluating whether they can perform over
multiple seasons.
Sensors can be installed in vines with a trunk diameter of 2
inches or larger. The sensor probe is installed into the plant xylem
(water carrying tissue) by drilling a shallow hole into the vine
trunk through the bark, and inserting the probe to make sensorxylem contact. The insertion hole is sealed to keep the probe from
being pushed out by xylem water pressure, and the insertion site
is wrapped with insulation material around the trunk. Sensors
should be placed on indicator vines already used for pressure
chamber readings. Santiago said a sensor can be installed by
a customer in just a few minutes, and FloraPulse provides an
installation manual and video. The sensor can provide accurate
readings on any grapevine regardless of variety or rootstock, as
long as the vine is healthy and not diseased.



The Crush - July 2020

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The Crush - July 2020 - 1
The Crush - July 2020 - 2
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