Riverland Wine’s united approach to Regional Program

Managing weeds and budgets, finding the right clones and rootstocks and planning for the region’s grape and wine future are key priorities for the Riverland in the Regional Program 2015–16, funded by Wine Australia.

Riverland Wine will host its first regional conference in 2016, since officially launching nine months ago. The association is the combination of the Riverland Wine Industry Development Council (RWIDC) and the Riverland Winegrape Growers Association (RWGA), and after years of working closely together the two entities now meet at the same table and function as a single united entity.

Riverland Wine Business Manager Andrew Weeks said the conference will address the unique challenges Riverland wine businesses face and seek to identify the path forward by focusing on the things that currently make the Riverland remarkable, and things that will make the region remarkable in the future.

‘Having the one voice helps and having growers and wineries at the same table means we can identify those key challenges and find solutions together that will benefit the whole region’, Mr Weeks said.

‘We want to be able to offer ideas and advice on how this region can work toward business sustainability, either by increasing efficiency of production, increasing the value of wine sold, or both.’

Business and budgets

The Regional Program 2015–16 in the Riverland will also support a number of Technical and Business Tools Workshops to be held throughout the year.

‘We want to provide the tools and programs that are easy to learn and use and that most businesses will already be familiar with’, he said.

‘Using Excel spreadsheets, the workshops will show ways to plan and budget for different scenarios of application of nutrition, water, herbicide, and fungicide and help identify desired viticulture outcomes and costs.

‘By combining planning tools with budget costs of the planned chemicals and inputs we want the growers to be able to easily plan “what if” scenarios and arrive at the desired technical outcome at the lowest possible cost.’

The tools will also include technical information sections, such as web links and factsheets.

Clones and rootstocks

The clonal and rootstock trials that began three years ago will continue, with plans to use the existing data to identify and narrow the focus to the clones and rootstocks best suited to the Riverland’s conditions.

Mr Weeks said viticulture parameters and small-lot winemaking assessments will help identify the most suitable of the 57 clones of Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc originally included in the trial.

‘Along with the winemaking assessments, we plan to use the data already collected over two years regarding canopy balance, bunch architecture and yield, and seasonal variations to help triage out clones that are deemed low value to the region.

‘The intent in the coming season is to concentrate on the more promising fruit and adopt a standardised assessment method for appraisal of the wine, in order to reduce the variation that is typical during sensory assessment.’

The rootstock trial will also be narrowed down, with the best performing rootstocks identified.

Weed management

The Riverland continues its search for the ideal weed control method, particularly in its battle to stop the spread of the Gazania species.

The State Government’s decision to make Gazania a declared weed earlier this year has been welcomed, as the plant is a major concern for many Riverland growers.

As a declared weed, Gazanias are now prohibited from sale anywhere in South Australia.

‘For typical weeds, growers apply herbicides as the primary method of control but in the case of some drought-tolerant weeds, such as the Gazania species and Fleabane, the characteristics that make these weeds drought tolerant also restrict uptake of herbicide’, Mr Weeks said.

‘This can also lead to increased chance of herbicide resistance, as well as reduced vine performance.’

Last year’s trial and feedback from growers showed either unreliable or variable control with herbicide applications. Weather also affected the trial results.

This year, the trial will continue to apply different herbicide treatments in a replicated random plot design. The applications, with generous water rates to ensure coverage, will involve:

  • different types of herbicides
  • different rates
  • different adjuvants, and
  • use in some treatments of ‘double knock’ herbicide application.

‘The adjuvants are used to help penetrate the waxy protective layer of the Gazania plant,’ he said.

‘This next stage of the trial will help us establish which active groups, adjuvants and application rates will allow control of these weeds in a cost-effective manner.’