Riverina celebrates 80 years of grape growing

In September, the Riverina Wine Grape Marketing Board marked its 80th birthday, with around 180 local growers, wineries, suppliers, board members and supporters attending the celebration.

Riverina Wine Grape Marketing Board (RWGMB) industry development officer Kristy Bartrop said it was a great day, a nice reminder of the long-term nature of their industry, as well as the strong relationship they continue to have with growers and wineries in the region.

Now, as the region gears up for vintage, the RWGMB will host a GWRDC-funded 2013–14 Regional Program workshop on Thursday 12 December. The weed control workshop will be held at the Department of Primary Industries vineyard, in Griffith.

‘As we leave spring and move into summer, weeds in the vineyard can be a real problem in this region – and a particularly time-consuming and costly one at the start of vintage’, Ms Bartrop said.

‘So, we thought getting some sound advice from University of Adelaide’s Chris Penfold and Chris Preston might be well-timed – and it’s a good opportunity to ask questions and see what others are doing before it all gets too crazy’.

There’s also a number of new projects and trials underway or about to begin, as part of the 2013–14 Regional Program.

The grape marc to mulch trial, which began last year, continues with the early results already showing good promise.

‘Though the trial still has another year to go before we can really review the results, we are already seeing a number of vineyards using marc as a mulch and they’re increasingly happy with the results,’, she said.

‘There a number of potential benefits we hope to identify in this trial. We’re obviously hoping to see good responses in the vine, an ability to provide cooler soil temperatures, suppress weeds – but it was also about finding a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly use for what was becoming a significant stockpile of grape marc’.

Results from the grape marc trial will also filter into another project, which is looking at ways to manipulate colour in red wine grapes.

The project will include colour results from the grape marc trial, as well as results from using sunscreen products, nutrient sprays and reflective floor matting.

‘Reflective floor matting has been used in the cherry and apple industries in Australia to increase colour in fruit, so we wanted to see if it had an effect on grapes’, she said.

‘On one hand, such matting could have the added benefits of helping supress weeds and cool soils but on the other hand, given the high temperatures the Riverina can experience during summer, there is some concern that it may also cause burn on the grapes.

‘So, it may be a case of trialling it to rule it out as an option. But given the two biggest wineries in the Riverina use colour as a payment mechanism – improving colour in our grapes is an ongoing effort and interest for many growers’.

The role sunscreen may have in protecting and encouraging colour in grapes is also being investigated, as part of a larger sunscreen trial.

‘We’re told that some sunscreen products have the potential to keep berries cooler, which in turn can increase colour – so this could be another option’, she said.

‘We’re also using the trial to look at the rates and number of applications of sunscreen products needed to provide satisfactory results.

‘The economics of growing grapes in the Riverina is influenced by the fact that much of the product is considered non-premium; so low input, low-cost options are critical to improving financial outcomes for growers.

‘But, it doesn’t mean our growers aren’t interested in improving quality or outcomes for wineries. It just needs to be achieved with a budget in mind – which is why many of the trials we undertake have a particular focus on optimal volumes that produce results but keep costs down’.

The Board has also recently released a new factsheet on bird control, which incorporates the local knowledge and techniques proving successful across the region.


Reflective floor matting is being trialled in a Riverina vineyard to see if it can help growers improve colour in berries. The method has been used by citrus, apple and cherry producers to improve fruit colour.
Reflective floor matting is being trialled in a Riverina vineyard to see if it can help growers improve colour in berries. The method has been used by citrus, apple and cherry producers to improve fruit colour.