Drought management for the health and longevity of perennial horticulture plants
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Drought management for the health and longevity of perennial horticulture plants
Lead organisation: SA Drought Hub
Hub members and partners involved: Southern NSW Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, Tasmanian Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, University of Adelaide, Wine Australia, Duxton, Green Brain, Ag Excellence Alliance, Plant and Food Australia, Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA
Project Category: Cross-hub Projects
Project summary: 

Australia’s horticulture industry is vital to the national economy, producing high-value crops such as grapes, citrus and almonds. In the face of escalating drought challenges, however, the industry faces a critical need for enhanced drought resilience.

It is well known that a tree’s canopy size is strongly linked to irrigation requirements of a crop. This project is delivering a vineyard and orchard monitoring system to help growers manage irrigation and plan other management activities to achieve the best outputs with the available water resources. The tool will integrate canopy measurements and soil moisture data for accurate irrigation modelling.

The project established 21 grape, citrus and almond demonstration sites across South Australia (4 grapevine, 2 citrus and 2 almond), New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Download the project case study

Project description: 

Three primary objectives focused on different but interconnected aspects of drought management:

  1. AgTech demonstration sites: Remote capture cameras were installed to track canopy development and provide real-time data, which was integrated with data from weather stations and soil moisture sensors to provide an integrated platform for irrigation decision-making.
  2. Grower engagement in solution design: Recognising the knowledge and experience of growers, the project actively involved them in co-designing solutions.
  3. Continuous monitoring: Investigating the potential of time-lapse cameras for continuous canopy monitoring in diverse horticultural settings.
  4. Strengthening industry alliances: Fostering connections among drought hubs and industry players.

Key achievements and results: 

  • Insights for better decision-making: Access to continuous data streams was invaluable for informed irrigation decisions, enabling growers to:
    • Track canopy growth and development for all crop types, identifying periods of rapid growth and potential stress indicators.
    • Optimise water use, leading to significant water savings without compromising fruit quality or yield.
    • Identify orchard areas with uneven growth or potential disease outbreaks, allowing for targeted interventions.
  • Successful collaboration across hubs and stakeholders: created opportunities for collaboration and strengthened the R,D,E,A&C foundations of the horticultural industry.
  • Development of a new data stream for canopy growth: Plant Area Index (PAI) data collected from remote cameras proved accurate and valuable for irrigation management.
  • Potential for improved prediction models: PAI data can be integrated into tools such as VineLOGIC to help growers find irrigation solutions to optimise plant growth and sustain plant health in water-constrained settings.
  • Increased awareness of drought-resilient practices: Workshops and extension activities reached a wide audience of growers.

Further information:

Project case study

Drought management for the health and longevity of perennial horticulture plants

Further Information

For more information on the project or increasing the water-use efficiency of your horticulture enterprise, contact Dr Cassandra Collins, University of Adelaide, at assandra.collins@adelaide.edu.au.

Project Images

The University of Adelaide research team: Associate Professor Cassandra Collins, Dr Pat Vaughan-O’Brien and PhD candidate Xiaoyi (Eva) Wang.


Dr Vaughan-O’Brien setting up cameras and sensors in a vineyard.


Dr Vaughan-O’Brien interviewing Riverland grape grower Aaron Thompson.


Eva Wang (left) and Dr Vaughan-O’Brien setting up cameras and sensors in a citrus orchard.