WA Regional Program investigating new vineyard management methods

Surviving extreme heat and wind

As extreme heat and wind events become a common vintage threat, Western Australian growers are investigating sunscreen and shade options to help protect their vines.

Perth Region Natural Resource Management Sustainable Food Production program manager Keith Pekin said extreme heat and wind events have an ongoing and increasing impact on fruit quality and yield throughout WA.

“It’s exacerbated in the Margaret River region where the vines are predominately planted in a north – south direction with the western face being overly exposed to the effects of the afternoon sun during heat spikes.

“Three of the past five vintages in the region have been significantly affected by heat spikes and extreme wind events.”

The project, conducted as part of the WA Regional Program and funded by AGWA, will trial the effectiveness of three commercially available sunscreen spray products.

Based at Howard Park Wine’s (HPW) Margaret River vineyard and managed by David Botting, the trial will also look at the effectiveness of pull-up screens as another option for the management of extreme heat and wind.

A demonstration-based workshop on-site and a follow up workshop in the Swan Valley will take place around May next year.

Unmanned aerial vehicle imaging

The number of wineries using digital aerial imaging in vineyards to help with management decisions is growing, and so too the sensor and technology options.

To help WA growers identify the best tools for the job, Dr Tony Proffitt from Precision Viticulture Australia, will lead an investigation into the types of sensors and their application with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) imaging as part of WA’s 2014-15 Regional Programfunded by AGWA.

“The use of imagery from airborne multi-spectral digital video systems with an on-ground resolution of 50cm is now a common and cost-effective practice in Australian viticulture.

“The use of such imagery has allowed grape growers and wine producers to make more informed, targeted management decisions which can lead to improved financial returns.”

He said a variety of UAVs or drones have become more commercially available and at more affordable prices.

“But more importantly, it is the sensor(s) that they carry which is of most importance to growers and wineries rather than the type of UAV itself – and there are a growing number of sensors which can be deployed, some of which have an on-ground resolution of 20cm or better.

“It’s doubtful that UAV and sensors could currently replace light aircraft in acquiring late season imagery cost-effectively, but there may be certain situations (e.g. cloudy weather) where the use of UAVs might be the preferred (and possibly only) option.”

There is also potential to use the high resolution imagery taken by the sensors, on horizontal and vertical planes, for other vineyard applications.

“This includes determining the onset of budburst and the number of inflorescences on vines early in the season, detecting the presence of disease and pest symptoms on leaves or berries, assessing the degree of bunch exposure, and when suitable thermal imaging camera systems become available, detecting irrigation leaks and monitoring vine water status.

Tempranillo management

The final project funded by AGWA as part of the WA Regional Program and lead by Jim Campbell-Clause, from AHA Viticulture, will investigate management options for the increasingly popular variety, Tempranillo.

“The Geographe region has had success with Tempanillo in local and national shows and the association has chosen it as a variety of prominence,” Mr Pekin said.

“It’s also widely grown in other WA regions including The Great Southern, Margaret River and the Perth Hills.

“It performs well under WA conditions but has some management issues including very early bud-burst, excessive early vigour, and being a heavy cropping variety.”

The project will help research optimum viticulture management methods for different wine styles and help WA growers produce higher quality fruit in a more cost effective way.

“Depending on outcomes from year one, this project would be carried out over a four-year time frame.”

Ash Keefe, from Greendoor Wines, removes sacrificial canes after measuring some changes in vine performance as part of a Tempranillo trial.
Ash Keefe, from Greendoor Wines, removes sacrificial canes after measuring some changes in vine performance as part of a Tempranillo trial.