Drone Technology, Sustainability Key To Grape And Wine Research In Washington For 2022

A black, red and silver drone with two silver cannisters full of bugs prepares for takeoff near a green vineyard.
This drone is ready to take off to release beneficial bugs in a vineyard. The good bugs are contained in the two canisters situated on the belly of the drone. (Photo by Washington State Wine Commission)


 Correspondent Lauren Paterson reports on projects planned for the Washington State Wine Commission. (Runtime 1:10)



One of the projects funded by the Washington Wine Commission involves releasing predator bugs by drone, in the hopes they’ll eat and control populations of pests harmful to vineyard growth.


“This is going to be sort of a one year, trial to see how this release works. And it helps reduce
your pesticide use, because you’re basically using good bugs to eat the bad bugs,” says
 Melissa Hansen, the research director of the Washington State Wine Commission.


Normally growers buy and sprinkle out bugs over the plants themselves. But, that’s labor intensive. Releasing bugs like lacewings and lady beetles via drone would reduce the human labor needed. And using bugs to control vineyard pests is a more sustainable approach than
spraying with harmful chemicals.


Hansen says the commission is working toward a third party audit system so Washington vineyards can prove they’re committed to sustainable growing practices.


“Research is a part of making sure that this new program works for the industry. So it takes into
account our issues, our soils, our conditions – it’s being tailor made for
Washington,” she says.


They’re even designing a special sustainability label for wineries who want to display it on the bottle.