South Australian Viticulturist Mary Retallack has partnered with WGCSA to share the latest research on best practice viticulture with SA growers through a series of articles.
Mary says, 'I hope these articles stimulate new thoughts, ideas and actions! Each location in SA is different and needs a tailored approach but if we can incrementally change the way we grow grapes and build resilience into our vineyards, we can start to achieve longer-term solutions. The solutions don’t have to cost a lot of money but may provide significant benefits.'
To kick things off, we asked Mary to share her experience in the industry, what growers need to be aware of in 2019 and her tips to help growers save time and reduce costs.
Tell us about your experience in the grape and wine sector?
I grew up on a fruit block in the Riverland and have been working in the wine sector professionally over the past 25 years in a range of hands on, extension, education, research and consulting roles. I work as an independent viticulturist and Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd provides a wide range of agribusiness services nationally. I am a also Director of Wine Australia and contribute to a number of wine sector advisory committees. I have a broad range of interests, and am particularly interested in ways we can build resilience and profitability into production systems, so both growers and the environment benefit.
I have just completed a PhD at the University of Adelaide in viticulture and plant protection studying the role of native insectary plants and their capacity to support diverse populations of predatory arthropods. They are the ‘good bugs’ and if we understand how to look after them, there are thousands of little insect workers that can potentially provide biocontrol of grapevine pests virtually for free! The opportunity to plant selected native insectary plants could help wine grape growers save time and resources by producing fruit with lower pest incidence, while enhancing biodiversity of their vineyards.
What are the top three things you think grape growers should be aware of in 2019?
Do you have any tips to help growers save time and reduce costs?
Informed decision making, correct timing and attention to detail are important for saving time and money. I like the idea of working smarter rather than harder. For example, there are networks of growers throughout SA who are enhancing biodiversity by revegetating with native, naturally adapted plants which can provide a range of benefits. By nurturing the environment it can take care of itself. Which means we can intervene less and benefit from naturally occurring ecosystem services. These benefits include biocontrol, weed suppression, erosion control, aesthetics, nutrient cycling, soil water retention, enhanced soil organic carbon and soil biological activity.
Looking to the future, what trends should grape growers keep in mind?
Export markets ebb and flow. The Chinese export market is demonstrating strong growth. Growers may wish to think strategically about how they can maximise their benefits in this market as well as spreading their risk into other emerging markets.
Being on the front foot regarding biosecurity is a must. Use rootstocks to provide protection against root borne pathogens and have a plan in place to manage visitation.
We will start to have access to grapevines that have been bred for resistance to powdery and downy mildew in the foreseeable future.
Plant growth regulators are used commonly in table grape production and are potentially a powerful tool to manipulate yield and the rate of berry development and fruit ripening in wine grapes also. Watch this space.
Attracting the next generation and providing diversified career paths to keep them in the sector. Let’s make sure we capture the collective wisdom of those who are nearing retirement.
Remember we can create our own trend and pathways, we don’t need to follow.