E. and J. Gallo: Improving Irrigation Technology and Grape and Wine Quality

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Landsat imagery is increasingly used in the private sector. E. & J. Gallo (Gallo), located in California, is the largest winery in the world and the first known company in the U.S. beverage industry to use Landsat data in viticulture practices. A pioneer of efficient water-management practices through Landsat, Gallo uses the imagery on approximately 20,000 acres of Gallo-owned vineyards from Southern California to Mendocino County.

Authors: Larisa Serbina and Holly Miller

Landsat imagery is increasingly used in the private sector. E. & J. Gallo (Gallo), located in California, is the largest winery in the world and the first known company in the U.S. beverage industry to use Landsat data in viticulture practices. A pioneer of efficient water-management practices through Landsat, Gallo uses the imagery on approximately 20,000 acres of Gallo-owned vineyards from Southern California to Mendocino County. Evapotranspiration from vineyards is the primary interest, though other crops are also gaining attention, particularly when looking at land acquisition and water availability in various regions. Gallo’s goals with using Landsat imagery include:

  • Estimating the potential water use for vineyards by region and varietal,
  • Estimating actual water use for irrigation and water stress index,
  • Scanning every vineyard owned or purchased (approximately 150,000 acres) to develop area specific water budgets, and
  • Supporting land acquisition based on water availability and quality.
Evapotranspiration from Gallo vineyards in Lodi, California, measured using an adjusted form of METRIC.

Evapotranspiration from Gallo vineyards in Lodi, California, measured using an adjusted form of METRIC. Lower evapotranspiration is shown in red and higher is in blue. Courtesy of E. & J. Gallo.

Currently, Gallo downloads every available Landsat image during the grape growing season. Irrigation generally starts in March in the warmer areas and continues through the month of October. An adjusted form of METRIC is then used to map evapotranspiration of the vineyards (fig. 1). The METRIC model was originally designed to compute and map evapotranspiration based on Landsat images. Gallo developed an internal calibration of METRIC which is currently used by the company in vineyards. Operation of the METRIC model depends on Landsat’s thermal data availability. Some of the benefits that Gallo observed in the last three years of using Landsat imagery include:

  • Decrease in the amount of water applied by 20–30 percent, subject to region,
  • Improved water management with the ability to run a seasonal water balance,
  • Development of more efficient seasonal irrigation schedules,
  • Improvement in grape quality which leads to improved wine quality,
  • Upward movement in the wine program, due to higher grape quality, leading to an increase in bottle price and an increase in revenue,
  • Reduced trimming of excess leaf canopies from over-irrigation,
  • Decrease in the cost of irrigation from reduction of water and energy used,
  • Using current year’s data of water allocation to determine and plan next year’s allocation.

Not only is Gallo able to supply consumers with better quality products through the use of Landsat imagery, but they are also able to decrease their business’ impact on the environment through a decrease in the amount of water applied during the irrigation season. The benefits from a reduction in application range from retention of in-stream flows to water-quality improvements due to decreased runoff.

Although other satellite imagery is available, the resolution is not as high as that of Landsat, and thus the data is not as useful for Gallo in this type of field application. However, Landsat itself also brings a variety of challenges. Cloud cover, for example, presents issues when obtaining data. Landsat 5 contributed significantly to the frequency of data availability as it shortened the lag between available images. One operational Landsat satellite is capable of providing an image every 16 days, and if an image contains cloud cover, it is not usable and is a loss of data. Timely and continued thermal data is particularly valuable in agriculture, as consumptive water use changes seasonally, even monthly. An increase in the frequency of imagery promotes efficiency of irrigation schedules. An increase in the number of operational Landsat satellites increases the benefits derived and improves assurance of data availability.

Gallo continues to use Landsat imagery with goals to expand its application through the Pacific Northwest and its international properties. Although significant benefits to Gallo and the environment (and, in turn, to society) are observed with the company’s use of Landsat imagery, Gallo could not afford to purchase satellite imagery alternatives to Landsat, nor afford a privately operated satellite. Understanding the current and potential benefits of the imagery use, Gallo expresses great interest in supporting the Landsat mission (Martin Mendez, E. & J. Gallo, oral commun. and written commun., 2013).

Reference:

Dr. Martin Mendez-Costabel, Senior Research Scientist, Gallo Viticulture and Enology, E&J Gallo, California, USA.

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