Buzzing like a giant insect over the verdant Moselle Valley, a drone sprayed fungicide over rows of vines.
Luxembourg wine producer Corinne Kox began trials of the small uncrewed aircraft last month over part of her century-old family estate near the borders with France and Germany.
The test drone, guided by a pilot operating a digital control panel on the ground, sprays more accurately and less wastefully than a helicopter, which her family sometimes uses, she said.
Kox, who is in her late 30s, is among the trailblazers in Europe deploying drones in wine production.
“It gives us some flexibility, especially on the slopes,” she told reporters.
“With a tractor, it is sometimes dangerous to drive right after a rainfall because it slips,” said Kox, who is gradually assuming management of the 10-hectare estate from her father.
Drones have been in use in California’s Napa Valley vineyards for some years.
In Europe, drones have been used in Switzerland for about three years and in Germany since last year, French viticulture expert Robert Verger said.
“In France, all aerial treatments in agriculture are forbidden, and the drone is classed as aerial treatment,” Verger, of France’s leading FNSEA agricultural union, said.
Above Hettermillen village on the Moselle River, Domaine Kox sprawls over lush green limestone slopes, where grapevines have been cultivated for 2,000 years.
Born in 1919, Kox’s late grandfather, Francois, launched a grape production business on the estate and her father and mentor, Laurent, turned it into a sophisticated vineyard and winery in 1977.
Kox produces white wines from Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Gewuerztraminer grape varieties. They also turn out a few sparkling wines as well as reds.
With a wingspan of nearly 1.5m and eight propellers, the drone buzzed a meter or so above the vines, its two flashing green lights protruding like antennae.
It sprayed a liquid mix of sulphur and copper over the green leaves.
After flying for about five to six minutes, the drone returned to recharge its batteries and refill the plastic tank with 10 liters of fungicide.
It can fly in automatic mode on a pre-determined route, or be guided by the pilot on the ground.
In conditions like those of the Grand Duchy’s vined slopes, the drone can be an advantage, said chief editor of Luxembourg’s specialist Vinorama magazine, Erwan Nonet.
“Luxembourg’s average vineyard gradient is the highest in the European Union,” he said.
Wine growers and farmers find it safer to use drones to spread fungicides and other chemicals to protect crops, Verger said.
They are “not in contact with the product” and less likely to have an accident, he added.
Carrying out the trial at the Kox estate is private aviation operator Luxaviation Drones, founded in Luxembourg in 2008, which supplies the drone and pilot.
“There are other winegrowers who are interested in drones,” Luxaviation director Christophe Lapierre said.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, the Bhutanese Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on Tuesday last week in a mass drive that has been hailed by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.” Bhutan grabbed headlines in April when its government said it had inoculated about the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose
MISINFORMATION: The digital giant said there were ‘numerous’ offending videos that were removed from the channel, which has 1.85 million subscribers Sky News Australia has been banned from uploading content to YouTube for seven days after contravening its medical misinformation policies by posting numerous videos that denied the existence of COVID-19 or encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. The ban was imposed by the digital giant on Thursday afternoon, the day after the UK’s Daily Telegraph ended Alan Jones’ regular column amid controversy about his COVID-19 commentary, which included calling the New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant a village idiot on his Sky News program. YouTube has not disclosed which Sky News program the videos were from, but said there
African nations should build capacity to produce vaccines on the continent and work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that the raw materials needed to produce the inoculations are available, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said. While a waiver on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights that is being discussed at the WTO is seen as a way to improve the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s least inoculated continent, Okonjo-Iweala said that only a handful of African countries have the capacity to produce the life-saving drugs. “There [are] a handful of countries — maybe Tunisia, Morocco to some extent,
CAUSE FOR ALARM: The virus has spread through 14 provinces in just a few days despite high vaccination rates, as authorities ramp up containment measures China is confronting its broadest COVID-19 outbreak since the pathogen emerged in late 2019 after the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant broke through the country’s defenses, with cases now in 14 provinces. While the overall number of infections — more than 300 so far — is much lower than outbreaks elsewhere, the wide spread indicates that the variant has been on the loose for some time and is alarming officials who wield the strictest containment measures in the world. It is the biggest challenge for the world’s second-largest economy since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December