A software package, designed to protect valuable grapevines, has been developed for sale worldwide by a group of New Zealand farmers. The programme was developed after three years of research by Hawkes Bay grape growers, wine companies and research scientists, and relies on weather forecasts.Growers say that the software – which uses weather data to calculate when conditions will produce disease and harmful pests – enables them to manage their vineyards “intelligently”. It tells them when the crops need spraying, and over the trial period has reduced the amount of insecticide used, minimising damage to the environment.The programme uses daily temperature, rainfall and humidity level readings to tell growers when spraying is needed. A more advanced programme that predicts future weather and disease patterns is also being developed.Project manager Campbell Agnew said: “The programme takes the guesswork out of spraying crops by pre-empting the outbreak of disease.”The software is being developed and marketed by Hort Plus, based in Hastings, New Zealand.Clare Blackburn

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