Man-made assets in space have oft proven their worth, over a number of situations and through difficult times. Now, however, it seems there could be yet another use for them.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and its satellites can apparently help decide how much irrigation vineyards require and at what times.

To use the water most efficiently, growers need information on crop production and water consumption. GrapeLook uses satellite remote sensing to monitor how much water is released from the plants, how much biomass is grown and how efficiently the water is being used overall, the ESA said in a statement on Wednesday.


Delhaire Winery in South Africa. Photo: REUTERS

Combining space and terrestrial technologies, GrapeLook uses observation data and field measurements to map information online for grape growers, who also receive forecasts on soil moisture content and irrigation needs through the service.

Launched early this year for selected vineyards in the Western Cape province of South Africa, the project also helped grape farmers to identify more efficient farming practices and reduce environmental impact. These factors can increase the yield and quality of grapes and wine, according to the space agency.

The trial period of this project showed that the farmers and water authorities were supportive of such a service, said Olivier Becu, ESA Technical Officer, adding that the South African authorities were willing to support a freely available GrapeLook service for another season.