Management strategies to deal with the challenges of short-term climate cycles and long-term climate change in the vineyard are essential for grapegrowers and winemakers, as the effects of climate change can impact on competitiveness at an individual business level and that of the broader sector.
The ability to manage the impact of heatwaves, drought, increased fire risk and salinity to mitigate their effect on grapevine physiology, and grape and wine quality has become an integral part of vineyard management in the Australian grape and wine community.
This section provides resources to help grape growers manage the impact of extreme weather events and systems on Australian vineyards.
The United Nations Framework on Climate Change defines climate adaptation as:
‘Adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change.’ 1
Climate change is already impacting the grape and wine community, as evidenced by changes in grape phenology and harvest dates, which has led to compressed harvests and greater pressure on vineyard and winery infrastructure. Vulnerability to the impacts of climate change varies along the value chain, with the vineyard being the most vulnerable.
Some of the adaptation responses in Australian vineyards have included:
- Increased irrigation efficiency
- Modified irrigation practices in response to heatwaves and frosts
- Vineyard floor management practices aimed at retaining soil moisture
- Use of alternative varieties and/or rootstocks
- Modified canopy management practices
- Establishment of vineyards in cooler regions and/or sourcing cooler climate fruit
- Delayed pruning practices to manipulate harvest dates.
Wine Australia’s R&D investment continues to strengthen these practice changes in the vineyard and provides new knowledge in viticultural strategies for the Australian wine community addressing impacts of a changing climate which will allow informed decisions to be made on future management and investment.
Current research projects addressing climate adaptability can be found under Strategy 4: Improving resource management and sustainability.
1 United Nations Framework on Climate Change, http://unfccc.int/focus/adaptation/items/6999.php. Accessed 29 September 2015.