John and Julie Summers operate a mixed farm at Padthaway, South Australia which includes 43 hectares of wine grape vineyard.
The farm was settled by the Summers family in 1949, with John and Julie resuming operation of the land in 2016. They are both active in their community, and in representation at industry level.
Whilst both grew up on family farms, Julie had the benefit of learning from her father’s progressive understanding of the importance of well balanced soil and plant nutrition, along with low intervention farming practice, way ahead of his time.
Now, Julie and John seek a more natural pathway to deliver the high value produce the Padthaway Region has the unique capability to grow. This includes carefully using the high value natural capital of abundant, quality underground water, nutritious soils and a reliable moderate cool climate of warm summer days, cool nights and mild winters. And, while this sounds easy given the fortunate natural attributes; in practice it is much more complex, and this is where great technology that works is so important.
Farming effectively and managing natural resources sustainably for the long term
As is often the case for Australian farmers, John and Julie face complex daily decision making around how best to produce high quality, healthy produce given the condition of the plant, soil well-being and daily soil moisture levels. It’s technical, and requires a strong working knowledge of the various sciences involved, along with the many parameters with which to measure how it is all going each day.
“Our Cardiness Vineyard enjoys a reliable, high quality underground source of drip water irrigation. The supply is finite however, so we aim to use only what our vines need each day throughout the wine grape growing season,” John said.
The vineyard also compromises of differing soil profiles. Varying elements of sand and clay result in different soil moisture levels which therefore require different levels of irrigation per block.
“When evaluating options on how we could most effectively monitor and manage vine water needs, we found that The Yield’s Sensing+ solution, along with the ability to forecast a week ahead, helped determine what we needed to do in the vineyard,” he said.
Topographical variations mean that some blocks experience temperature variations, which can result in frost. Using The Yield’s holistic solution, John and Julie are pre-warned of possible temperature extremes and are able to plan ahead to mitigate crop damage due to frost and hot weather heat spikes.
Enhanced decision making powered by data and insights
The team at The Yield worked closely with John and Julie to create a customised solution for their vineyard and wine grape business.
The Sensing+ solution has been running for over a year now generating data and insights to power John and Julie’s decision making regarding on-farm activities. John says the soil moisture and temperature data coming from varying depth probes within the platform is very interesting and particularly how it correlates with what the vines are telling us visually at the same time.
With this technology and abundant real time data, we can now stay well ahead of what our vines actually require rather than being reactive and sometimes behind the game.
“Block 4 (with a lighter soil profile) showed very rapid response from irrigation - almost to full depth. While Block 2 (with a limestone over higher clay profile) showed very slow penetration from watering. This is very meaningful – it shows we need to adjust our watering of different blocks accordingly,” he said.
The onsite weather station and 14 Day Weather Forecast feature has also helped John and Julie to determine irrigation levels, relative to vine requirements, and at certain stages of the growth cycle. They can now more effectively balance the vine requirements, weather and irrigation, and plan accordingly.
Through these insights, John and Julie can achieve their commercial goals, but in a more sustainable manner.
“The Yield’s Sensing+ solution is without peer and the decision to adopt their platform and analytics is compelling. And it works!
The Yield’s friendly and helpful team, plus proven technologies, provided everything necessary to ensure we give our vines the water they need, particularly in light of inclement weather.”