Wine Australia has announced a new three-year $2.2 million regionally-based program that will support winegrape growers to plant cover crops, enhance soil health and increase functional biodiversity in vineyards around the country.
Delivered by Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd, in consultation with behavioural scientists Evidn, the grassroots focused program will work with growers in 10 wine regions across four states and will include new region-specific resources, an online information portal, 40 demonstration sites and on-the-ground support from local coordinators.
Wine Australia general manager Research, Development and Adoption Dr Liz Waters says this is an exciting step in improving sustainability and the resilience of Australian vineyards.
“The Australian grape and wine community is in the midst of a challenging period, but through this new initiative we’ll be providing regionally-specific and practical options for growers that will lead to improvements in sustainability and profitability,” says Dr Waters.
“Extensive research has shown the value that planting cover crops and groundcovers has in the vineyard, particularly improving soil health and structure which provides a better foundation for grapevines.
“Biodiversity is also key to improving the resilience of our vineyards and can improve sustainability by minimising the need for pest and weed control, if you get the balance right.
“This initiative will see expertise available regionally to support growers to find the best solutions for their vineyards.”
Retallack Viticulture managing director Dr Mary Retallack says the program will demonstrate ways to create and maintain functional agroecosystems and enhance ecosystem services within Australian vineyards.
“By growing the resilience of vineyards using supplementary flora and enhancing soil health, it is possible to reduce the need for intervention – saving valuable time and resources,” she says.
“Ecological restoration provides habitat for beneficial fauna including predatory arthropods, microbats and insectivorous birds that contribute to biocontrol of insect pests in vineyards and is one of the key practices used to combat the effects of climate change. It is possible to boost functional diversity by more than three times when native insectary plants are incorporated near grapevines.
“We are delighted to be supporting growers to make this transition and enhance their existing environmental stewardship practices.”
The new national program, which commences in July, will operate under the EcoVineyards banner.
It builds on the existing Landcare funded EcoVineyards program in South Australia, which is run in partnership between the Wine Grape Council of SA and Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd.
More information on the new program is available on the national EcoVineyards website www.ecovineyards.com.au.