From cooler climate European wine regions to the more temperate southwestern wineries belonging to the United States, environmental changes wreak havoc on newly emerging grapevine buds. Effective vine protection protocols are essential in combating the damage caused by frost to grapevine buds and green tissues. As an agricultural helicopter specialist, FairLifts is the leader in securing an effective response to impending frosts.
When frost is present in vineyards, it results in the accumulation of ice crystals on the surface of harvesting equipment, the vineyard floor and more importantly on the temperature sensitive buds and tissues of the grapevines. Frosts can occur at any time throughout the year and at times can be more easily managed because of the stage of the vines. When the vines have gone dormant, frost is less likely to cause damage to the extent that it does when new growth first starts to emerge and attempts to acclimate itself to the environment. An effective and speedy response is the only way to avoid widespread damage to an entire crop.
Although there are several alternatives to fight frost damage, helicopters can be used most effectively. Clients responsible for contracting frost protection services in the past may have elected to steer clear of utilizing helicopters because they believe the cost to be more excessive than implementing the use of fans or water. This may be true, to an extent, however, helicopters are the more feasible option regardless. This is because helicopters are capable of applying warmer air to a larger concentration of crops at one time, which in turn may be costly but over time will ultimately offset the cost in the tonnes of grapes that can be rescued as a result.
FairLifts knows that experience is key in applying helicopters as an effective tool in frost protection management. We work with local operators whose pilots are well versed in agricultural applications and services because providing adequate protections over long periods of time can be risky. Often, these operations are carried out overnight which is why pilots may request to conduct a site inspection to clearly note or mark obstacles. During the operation, the pilot must maintain visual reference to the ground, should visual reference to the ground become impaired, the operation will no longer be considered safe.
It’s imperative that the pilot has access to the equipment he or she needs prior to the start of the operation. This includes frost kits, helicopter (bubble) covers, and blade tie downs, to name a few. The pilot and ground crew will additionally check to ensure that landing lights, navigation lights, and instrument lights are functioning accordingly. Keep in mind that as frost approaches, the time between reserving helicopter services and when the actual application will need to take place is limited.
FairLifts agents can easily manage the reservation of on-demand helicopter applications as well as organize site inspections and help to ensure the operation is conducted successfully. When a client calls to secure frost protection services, they may be asked a series of questions to provide a clear understanding of what they will require to meet their objective. It is important to consider when reserving frost protection services, to leave time for the pilot and ground crew to prep the aircraft and ferry it to the location. It may be necessary for this to be done during daylight hours so that obstacles like bird covers, overhanging wires, or cables can be highlighted.
Helicopters make use of their ability to drag down warmer air from the inversion layer above and stop colder air from ponding. The process is as follows: the pilot locates cold spots in a particular area and makes an attempt to recreate a natural air flow to an away from said cold spots. The pilot will employ the use of an outside temperature gauge to pinpoint the inversion layer and will then establish an acceptable and safe hover height to drag down the warmer air thereby raising the air temperature over the affected area. This operation may need to be ongoing until the air temperature is raised to a predetermined temperature or per client specification.
Using a helicopter to apply frost protection is an advanced means of mitigating widespread frost or freeze damage over an entire crop of grapes. As a result of FairLifts access to experienced operators and pilots located locally as well as internationally, vineyards and wine producing regions the world over will be adequately protected against the effects of seasonal frosts and freezing temperatures.