Riverland priorities inspire huge Regional Program

The Riverland has eight new and ongoing GWRDC Regional Program-funded projects on the agenda in 2014, with results and field days aimed at improving the bottom line and quality control.

Riverland Wine executive officer Chris Byrne said this year’s program would back up some outstanding results and achievements from last year’s program.

Particle Film Technology

With recent Riverland temperatures topping 40 °C, one of this year’s much anticipated program outcomes will be the results from a repeated sunscreen trial.

Particle film technology products, such as Photon®, Screen®, and Surround® are being trialled in a vineyard at Kingston on Murray. The trial will consider the role and effects of sun protection offered by these products on yields and canopy temperatures, as well as fruit quality.

A factsheet, with results and recommendations for spray rates and application methods, will be produced from this trial.

Sustainable irrigation practice

The final outcomes of an ongoing sub-surface irrigation trial at Banrock Station are due to be published later this year.

Led by Mark Skewes from SARDI, the trial has monitored and assessed the performance of four subsurface treatments, which include commercially available geotextile wrapped products plus the Treflan® and copper impregnated variants.

‘This project continues to generate plenty of interest, but so far the list of pros and cons don’t seem to suggest this is any more viable than other surface drip irrigation methods’, Mr Byrne said.

Organic vs. Conventional practice

Organic viticulture is a topic of growing interest and success in the Riverland.

A three-year research trial at Salena Estate Vineyard, which compared the cost of production, yield, quality pest and disease results, soil fertility and overall returns of organic and conventional practice from two Shiraz blocks, will wrap up this year.

A final report is being completed, but Mr Byrne said the results showed there was no compelling argument for one practice over the other in the Riverland.

‘There’s little doubt that organic can produce very good wine – and several Riverland vineyards, including Salena, are doing just that’, he said.

However, from a grower’s perspective, it also showed that in many cases you get the quality but not the quantity… so unless the opportunity to get an improved price-point is available, the additional effort and costs associated with organic is not compelling.”

Weed Control Technology Field Day

Last year’s spray application Field Day attracted more than 200 participants from across the Riverland, and this year, Riverland Wine members are hoping for a similar result.

This year’s field day will focus on weed control technology, with the latest products and equipment to be demonstrated and displayed. The Field Day will be held post-harvest with a date and time to be confirmed.

Mulching trial

New soil probes have been installed in the Riverland’s mulch trial at Barmera and Yamba.  These will record will record and compare soil water retention in the treatments compared to the control.

‘The trial outcomes will be written up in a final report this year, but it’s pretty clear from ongoing results that there is good moisture retention and additional soil benefits if mulching is carried out correctly’, he said.

However, cost and availability are still factors, given there’s 20,000 hectares of vineyards in the Riverland and much of the mulch needs to be sourced from outside the region’.

New clone evaluation & rootstock trial

The Riverland Vine Improvement Committee and Yalumba’s work in new clones and rootstocks continues to generate strong support, across the region and from the GWRDC. The trail is revealing that the region is capable of matching the wine styles produced to consumer and market preferences.  The winemakers involved are truly excited by the potential exposed thus far.

The GWRDC has committed to funding both trials for several more years, which Mr Byrne said would ensure the Riverland gets the best outcomes that will benefit the region for years to come.

Gazania solution

The search to find a suitable herbicide based treatment, perhaps combined with mechanical methods for the increasingly problematic weed Gazania, continues in the Riverland. Elders will manage the autumn/winter trial in collaboration with the Viti tech group.

Mr Byrne said concerns were building around this weed with Natural Resource Management considering taking the steps to list the weed as ‘declared’ and enforcing its control.