Region in focus: SA North

If ‘boots on the ground’ are any guide, the Barossa Grape & Wine Association’s Demonstration Vineyards project is delivering the goods.

Thirty-five growers and winemakers turned out in February, in the middle of vintage, to view a demonstration of different canopies and fruit quality at that stage of the season. This month, more than 40 people took part in 2 half-day vineyard tours.

The morning tour looked at trial sites at Ebenezer, Light Pass and Vine Vale, while the afternoon tour took in Krondorf and Eden Valley, where new trials have been established on different soil types as part of a joint Wine Australia Regional Program and Barossa Grape and Wine Association (BGWA) commitment to fund the project into 2015–16.

‘The beauty of this work is that it is long-term, and can easily be expanded to take in these different soil types. Both growers and winemakers are involved, so it is getting some really good conversations started’, said the BGWA’s Viticultural Development Officer Nicki Robins.

While co-ordinated by BGWA, the project is designed to assist growers across the SA North.

Nicki said the demonstration sites were showcasing a range of modern viticultural techniques that would improve soil health to produce more consistent yields, reduce reliance on traditional inputs such as fertilisers, chemicals and fuel, and potentially improve fruit and wine quality – all of which would also improve vineyard profitability.

These techniques include mulching, soil moisture monitoring, canopy health-based irrigation scheduling, catch wires, non-competitive mid-row grasses and remedial work to eliminate Eutypa.

‘The project ties into BGWA’s existing Creating Resilient Landscapes in the Barossa initiative, which began in 2012, and with the broader Barossa Grounds project, which was established to differentiate the topographic, soil and climatic influences in the different “grounds” of the Barossa’, Nicki said.

Another major focus in the current financial year is a specific Eutypa Dieback Project jointly funded through Wine Australia’s Regional Program and the Clare Region Winegrape Growers Association.

Eutypa dieback is the major disease problem in the Clare Valley, with estimates of as much as 30 per cent infection in many vineyards, leading to significant reductions in profitability.

The new project, which is led by Dr Mark Sosnowski from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), will have three deliverables for growers in the Clare and Barossa regions:

  • a resource kit, including fact sheets and a short video, extending the latest information from SARDI research combined with local knowledge and management tips regarding prevention practices and treatment of the disease
  • a workshop in May next year to present the resource kit, discuss vineyard assessment and summarise the latest research and issues surrounding the adoption of various prevention and control strategies, and
  • a vineyard assessment program that will supply grapegrowers with knowledge from current research and development to recognise disease symptoms in the field.

This field assessment will allow grapegrowers to apply appropriate decisions regarding Eutypa management, particularly with respect to vine age and grape variety.