Water Use of South African Vineyards

GrapeLook: a Space Based Service to Improve Water Use Efficiency

Posted on 1 September 2010

Water Use of South African Vineyards

The project focuses on the operational monitoring of crop water and nitrogen use of vineyards in the Western Cape (Stellenbosch, Vredendal, De Doorns, Paarl, e.a.) based on remote sensing technologies. The 2010-11 summer is the demo season, in which all farmers, irrigation advisors, water users associations and irrigation boards have free online access to weekly information on their crop status, water demands, and crop nitrogen status. The challenge is to keep the grape industry economically viable while simultaneously saving water resources.


The objective of this project is to assist grape farmers and governmental authorities with the management of scarce irrigation water resources and on-farm nitrogen applications in order to promote sustainable optimal resource utilization, reduce input costs, protect the environment, and ultimately increase water use efficiency by means of operational satellite technologies.


  • Maps of crop water and nitrogen status
  • Development of an irrigation scheduling forecasting tool
  • Open-access website with remote satellite derived crop infor
  • SMS/MMS service providing farmers with irrigation advice


The expected benefits of this project focus around increasing agricultural production while reducing water consumption. The aims are to attain sustainable resources utilization, reduce inputs costs, protect the environment and ultimately increase water use efficiency. Remote sensing is an objective, non-biased tool to provide quantitative information on water consumption. This will help governmental authorities with decision making on efficient water releases from reservoirs. Extension officers can receive quantified information on actual crop water status, crop water needs, grape production and nitrogen status of individual vineyards to provide accurate recommendations to the farmers they are in charge of. Water Users Associations can use the quantified information on water consumption of vineyards, irrigation water requirements and crop water requirements in order to distribute irrigation water efficiently using water quota, and ensure equitable and fair sharing of irrigation water among the various farmers.

Technologies used

This project builds on existing terrestrial and space based elements which will be integrated into one end-to-end service directly applicable to vineyards in South Africa. During the course of the project, the best way for transferring the final service to the end-users will be determined. New developments are among others the development of an irrigation scheduling forecasting tool and a SMS/MMS service for farmers. New types of input data are in situ ET fluxes, soil moisture probes that communicate through satellite communication, irrigation retrieval from evapotranspiration updates, and digital boundaries of vineyard blocks.
The spatial information products consist of raster and vector data. All data will be uploaded on a publically accessible website (, allowing multiple stakeholders to review the data. It is recognized that the end-users have different interests. Because the website is not protected, all end-users, such as Water Users Associations, the Department of Agriculture, and the farmers, can review the information through the Google Maps interface. Additionally, the demonstration farmers will receive a SMS/MMS service with information on irrigation scheduling and fertilizer applications that will help them in making management decisions.

Project location

Project partners

  • eLEAF