One of the biggest problems vinegrowers have is to fight the mildew, powdery mildew/fr. odium and downy mildew/fr. mildiou. Non-organic growers can use systemic preparations that penetrate the plant’s components, while organic growers use active substances such as sulfur and copper that settle on the leaves of the vine.
In the latter case, precipitation risks rinsing away the preparation, which means that additional spraying may be needed, which adds more load on the environment by requiring more driving with the tractor in the vineyard. The rinsing also causes the substances to contaminate the soil and within the EU the use of copper has recently been limited to 4 kg/ha and year.
Maybe a robot equipped with UV light can solve this global problem?
Researchers at Cornell AgriTech New York have partnered with SAGA Robotics in Norway to develop the first commercial robotic unit named Thorvald, and it will appear on the market this year.
Since UV light damages the DNA of organisms, many organisms have developed a biochemical defence against this damage, which is triggered by blue light found in sunlight, but by using UV light at night, this defence does not work. The dose should be so low that the vine is not affected but still kill the mildew.
The UV method has previously been used on strawberry plants and recent experiments on vines show that it has a good effect on both varieties of mildew. The first version of the robot will run at night all week and with the same “dose” everywhere and in the longer term the vision is that the dosage will be adapted to the need.
Hope this can be the long-term solution to the vinegrowers big scourge!