Winegrape growers walk a fine line between under- and over-irrigating their vines.

Too little water, and the vines defoliate and production is compromised. Too much water, and the plants can go vegetative, the berries have dilute flavors and qualities, and the dense canopy can increase disease problems.

Alan Lakso, a Cornell University horticultural researcher at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, may have the solution. He has developed a microsensor that measures real-time water stress in grapevines, according to a news release.

Along with graduate student Vinay Pagay, Lakso's team is working to develop 4-inch diameter silicon wafer protoypes that contain about 100 microsensors. They are collaborating with Infotonics, a Canandaigua, N.Y.-based firm that specializes in micro-electromechanical systems.

The team hopes to design a sensor that will transmit field readings wirelessly to a central server, where growers can view them.

The concept has already received attention from E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, Calif., as well as researchers and industry leaders from Australia, Spain and Italy.

"It's not just for the big growers," Lakso said in the news release. "We hope the micro-manufacturing will provide low-cost sensors for small growers as well."