Workshops offer WA growers a closer look at their vineyard’s soil health

Western Australia’s large compost and mulch trial has entered its second and final year, with critical regionally-focussed water and nutrient efficiency results expected.

Funded as part of the GWRDC Regional Program, the trial includes two demonstration sites, in the Swan Valley and Margaret River, where three rows of mulch, three rows of compost and control rows have been established.

Regional Program coordinator and Perth Region NRM Sustainable Agriculture Manager Keith Pekin said the products used are commercially available, meet AS 4454 and were applied at the recommended rate (banded to around 60cm, at a depth of around 6cm).

“We have utilised MEA, telemetry based monitoring equipment, which measures the soil moisture at different points along the trial rows, at depths of 15cm and 25cm, while also recording soil temperature and rainfall,” he said.

“At this point in time vine and crop yield data has not been fully analysed though it is safe to say that for the first season, both the mulch and compost had clear potential to reduce applied water use by around 20 per cent and moderate soil temperature.

“For the second season, the mulch was still quite visible and offered the same potential to reduce applied water.”

As part of the program for season one, two workshops were held last May with around 80 regional growers attending.

Mr Pekin said Tony Proffitt, from AHA Viticulture, delivered a great presentation on the utilisation of composts and mulches in relation to soil. This was followed by an informative presentation on nitrogen management and nitrous oxide emissions in the vineyard by Dr Mardi Longbottom (AWRI) and a site visit to local compost and mulch suppliers to round off the event.

An information sheet was developed for the workshops and can be downloaded from the Wines of Western Australia.

This info sheet was developed to complement the Managing grapevine nutrition and soil health publication which was also funded through the Regional’s program.

More workshops are planned for Margaret River on May 13 and in the Swan Valley on May 15, this year.

“This year, we have Jim Campbell-Clause delivering a presentation on the composts/mulches project outcomes and Dr Lyn Abbott, soil health professor at the University Western Australia, delivering a presentation on soil microbes,” he said.

“Lyn’s presentation will provide the opportunity for local producers to bring in soil samples for Lyn to magnify and display on the screen while discussing the health and functions of the microbes in the samples provided.

“These workshops will include a presentation aimed at providing producers with a better understanding of assessing soil quality and interpreting soil test results and will have an information sheet for release at this workshop that has been developed by Tony Proffitt.”

In addition to these presentations, Mardi Longbottom and Nigel Todd (Perth Region NRM) will be delivering a short presentation on the vineyard nitrogen management and nitrous oxide emissions project outcomes.

Also, as part of the previous Regional Program, there were two winery focussed workshops, delivered by AWRI’s Karl Forsyth and Simon Nordestgaard. These workshops provided producers with information that would enable them to improve their winery wastewater management and winery energy use.

Around 80 growers attended last year’s mulch and compost trial workshops in Margaret River. Another workshop is scheduled for May 13 in Margaret River, and May 15 in Swan Valley
Around 80 growers attended last year’s mulch and compost trial workshops in Margaret River. Another workshop is scheduled for May 13 in Margaret River, and May 15 in Swan Valley