Riverina ready to tackle soil and vine disease in the vineyard

Precision viticulture tools and technology, vineyard floor matting, mid-row grasses and trunk-disease management are this year’s key priorities for the Riverina Regional Program.

Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board Industry Development Officer Kristy Bartrop said new trials, a number of vineyard visits and a variety of new and ongoing research outcomes will be developed out of the Regional Program, funded by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority.

Brassica biofumigation

The first of the vineyard visits, on October 10, in Hanwood, will look at the ongoing work and successful outcomes from the Brassica biofumigation demonstration block, which was started last year.

The research being conducted at the demonstration block is helping to address problems of decline in newly planted, grafted grapevines, often linked to the incidence of black-foot fungi (Ilyonectria spp.) in soil and grapevine roots.

Ms Bartrop said research by Dr Melanie Weckert from the National Grape and Wine Industry Centre has demonstrated that planting brassica/biofumigation crops, such as mustard seed, has the potential to decrease the incidence of soil borne fungi and damaging nematodes.

“The first year results are quite interesting – with the block demonstrating some significant improvements in yield and noticeable suppression of the parasitic nematodes,” she said.

“Growers were invited to come along and visit the demonstration block in Hanwood on October 10, with a BBQ included and the NWGIC researchers on-site to discuss the results.”

Mid-row management trial

A spin-off of the Brassica trial, to begin this year, is the development of a bigger mid-row management trial.

Ms Bartrop said a demonstration site has been created with a number of mid-row grass options being trialled, to gauge the most suitable to the needs of regional growers. Results such as costs, vineyard management, quality measurements and harvest results will be gathered as part of the trial.

“We will also host another on-site vineyard walk in late October as an opportunity for growers to see how the trial has been set up and to discuss some of the early results.”

Trunk disease remediation demo site

As a follow-up to last year’s trunk disease discussions and vineyard visits, Ms Bartrop said a small demonstration site to showcase trunk disease treatments and management tools will start soon.

“In last year’s program we’d initially planned a workshop to discuss trunk disease but we found most growers didn’t want to sit in a room to discuss the topic – they were more interested in having someone come out and show them first-hand the symptoms and examples of disease in their own vineyards,” Ms Bartop said.

“So SARDI research scientist Mark Sosnowski came along and did a number of vineyard walks across Griffith – and offered some fantastic one-on-one education around trunk disease.”

The demonstration site will showcase best practice examples of disease management techniques and tools as well as develop information to help early intervention and identification in the region.

Colour development trial

Last year’s small colour development trial has been expanded as part of this year’s Regional Program with 1.5km of matting rolled out in a new trial site.

Ms Bartrop said three rows each of five different grape varieties now had the white reflective matting. The trial is designed to see what the role of matting might play in colour development.

The white matting is already used in other industries to help advancement of colour in fruit tree and hydroponic plants.

“Colour, expressed as a measurement of anthocyanin in wine grapes, is an attribute by which the price of wine grapes in the Riverina can be managed by grapegrowers,” she said.

“In theory, the matting would reflect the light under the canopy to improve colour development.”

Started as a smaller trial last year, to test the most appropriate size and type of matting, Ms Bartrop said early results had also shown it helped to retain soil moisture and minimise soil temperature extremes in the vineyard.

Precision viticulture – quality zoning and farm input management

The final project of the 2014/15 Riverina Regional Program is looking at precision viticulture and its best application for local growers.

Starting as part of last year’s AGWA Regional Program, the project saw the collection of satellite imagery from about 12 Shiraz blocks from across the Riverina as a means to identify and grade variations, such as high/low vigour, in each vineyard.

This year, the project will be expanded to more vineyards and more detailed analysis of the Shiraz blocks will be provided. Also, as a spin off to this work, a small trial will be set up to match the viticulture parameters identified in a particular block to a targeted spray program.

“Essentially, we’re going to take what we’ve learnt from the satellite imagery and ground data to see if we can develop a variable spray program that matches the needs specific to the block,” Ms Bartrop said.

“We’re not necessarily looking at precision viticulture to get premium grade grapes from every vineyard but instead think the more we understand around the variation in vineyards the more growers will be able to match the inputs, treatments and even harvest dates of specific blocks to their commercial requirements.”

Riverina’s small colour-development trial has been expanded as part of this year’s Wine Australia Regional Program with 1.5km of white matting rolled out in a new trial site.
Riverina’s small colour-development trial has been expanded as part of this year’s Wine Australia Regional Program with 1.5km of white matting rolled out in a new trial site.