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Europe’s wines get satellite boost

15 Jul 2003

The European Space Agency is mapping Europe's vineyards in unprecedented detail to help vine growers across the continent.

High-resolution, multispectral images will soon be helping vine growers across Europe make the most of their vineyards.

As part of a European Commission-backed project called Bacchus, the European Space Agency (ESA) is beaming back satellite images of up to 0.65 m resolution. These images will be used to chart Europe’s vineyards in unprecedented detail and help farmers manage their crops.

All wine-producing regions in Europe are currently required to keep a register of vine production. At present there is no standardized way of doing this and it usually involves painstaking methods such as fieldwork and aerial photography.

According to the ESA, the aim of Bacchus is to use georeferenced aerial and satellite images to create a geographical information system (GIS). As well as helping with record-keeping, the GIS tool will provide vine growers with invaluable data such as vine inventories, boundaries and the vineyard’s angle to the Sun.

Cemagref, a French research institute, has the crucial role of developing pattern-recognition software to automatically demarcate vineyards within images. “For Bacchus, our approach will be to combine both textural and shape information,” said Michel Deshayes of Cemagref. “Vineyard structure induces specific periodic patterns and spatial distributions.”

The ESA selected a number of pilot sites including Italy’s Frascati vineyards and began acquiring images earlier this year. The sites are now being regularly re-imaged to show how the vineyards are developing through the summer growing season.

The Bacchus consortium involves 14 public and private bodies from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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