A mix of old and new on the research agenda
A combination of new technology and tried-and-true field work is helping winemakers and grapegrowers across the Greater NSW/ACT region address challenges and maximise opportunities.
On the technology front, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), with funding from Wine Australia, ran seven workshops during August and September to showcase innovations that can help improve vineyard operations.
Demonstrations included drones capturing imagery, monitoring nitrogen status and releasing predatory insects, and satellite tracking of irrigation and soil moisture via IrriSat technologies. A case study highlighted how laser technology can assist with bird control.
There were also presentations on the development of new apps that will revolutionise disease modelling, yield estimation, berry flavour and aroma through image analysis.
Meanwhile, a number of research projects and trials have been completed or are ongoing across the region.
Several replicated trial sites recently were established to evaluate timing of leaf removal treatments at various phenological points throughout the growing season, along with hormone use to alter bunch morphology to combat weather-driven diseases such as Botrytis and non-Botrytis bunch rots.
It is hoped the project will lead to the use of new approaches to managing these diseases, which are known to cause significant loss of grape yield and wine quality.
‘Last vintage, leaf removal of the bunch zone was effective in drying bunches out from surface wetness, and it also allowed for greater spray coverage of bunches later in the season’, said Darren Fahey, NSW DPI’s Development Officer for Viticulture.
‘We are also looking at manipulating ripening with the use of hormones and anti-transpirants across several replicated trial sites given the compression of harvests due to a changing climate over the past few vintages.’
In Orange and Hunter Valley, trials in October demonstrated the use of different brassica and legume mid–row crops. By promoting biologically active soils, growers should benefit from reduced requirements of inputs such as fertiliser and water. Several different plant species also will be evaluated in the mid-row area for better management of soil carbon levels.
In Wagga Wagga, a sector workshop in November provided an update on a project to evaluate and demonstrate new disease-resistant cultivars for warm irrigated regions, with presentations from key researchers from CSIRO, NSW DPI, Charles Sturt University and the University of Adelaide.
In Riverina, NSW DPI is testing the use of various under-vine cover-crops on grapevine yield, wine quality and soil health. Data is currently being analysed from several seasons and will be collated in a set of recommendations for the wine sector.
A joint project between the University of NSW and Treasury Wine Estates has developed image-based tools to rapidly assess both flower number and berry number in the vineyard. These tools are being tested this year in Orange and Clare Valley in various systems to accurately predict yield in vineyards.
Wine Australia also funds a number of research projects at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre in Wagga Wagga, including a ‘berry ripening’ project and the development of a phone-based app for assessment of berry colour and volume.
Recent videos from the Greater NSW/ACT Regional Program