Agriculture’s ability to collect data is greater than its ability to model and interpret data, said Nick Dokoozlian, vice president of viticulture, chemistry and enology at E&J Gallo Winery, Wednesday at the International Fruit Tree Association’s annual meeting in Rochester, New York.
Dokoozlian, who delivered the group’s annual Wallace Heuser Lecture, told growers and industry officials that farming industries now need to focus their energy on determining what to measure and how to take action based on all that information.
“At this point, our ability to collect data far exceeds our ability to act on it,” he said.
For example, Gallo, based in Modesto, California, used satellite imagery yield maps and quality maps to mechanically remove leaves to create a more uniform light, which prompted an immediate response from the grapes.
Vineyard uniformity improved after just three months. Crop yields went up by 18 percent after three years with similar quality, while water efficiency improved by 20 percent.
The company took a while to make sense of and use the imagery, but it did, he said. Too often, technological developments show up as solutions with no problem. Farmers need to start with the problem, he said.
Also Wednesday, IFTA announced it had started a memorial research fund in honor of Wallace Heuser, founder and president of the group that led to IFTA. He was a big advocate for research, said his daughter, Wanda Heuser Gale, a current IFTA board member.
Meanwhile, Lisa Jenereaux of Spurr Brothers Farms in Nova Scotia was introduced as the new president of the IFTA, becoming the first woman to run the organization, replacing the outgoing Rod Farrow. Jeff Cleveringa of Starr Ranch Oneonta in Washington is the new vice president.
Other topics Wednesday included water stress, apple maturity assessments and a young professional panel discussion.
Wednesday marked the third day of the conference, which continues Thursday with orchard tours.
The conference began Monday with presentations on robotics, economics and rootstocks. Tuesday’s conference involved orchard tours that showed different grafting techniques and multileader trees.
—by Ross Courtney