Photo: Andre Castelluci / Wine Australia

A window into the climate looking glass

RD&E News | May 2019
Photo: Andre Castelluci / Wine Australia
10 May 2019
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Grapegrowers have increasingly become adept at dealing with year-to-year climatic variability in their vineyards. But how do you respond to a climatic change you’ve never experienced before? And how have others in Australia and around the world risen to the challenge?

A new online climatic ‘atlas’ hopes to go some way to providing the answers.

The Australia’s Wine Future project – led by Dr Rebecca Harris from the University of Tasmania – is using climate science to deliver information, tools and practical management options to grapegrowers to help them face not only the challenges of short-term climate cycles, but also long-term climate change. 

Dr Harris said there were other future climate projections, but what was available was often not sector-specific or at a resolution to be useful.

Image: Wine Australia

‘What our project is aiming to do is provide regional projections across Australia and forecasts of inter-annual and decadal climate variability, so that grapegrowers can prepare ahead – for the next year, decade or even the next generation.

‘This is important, because while changes to irrigation and canopy management can be employed to combat short-term climate variations, decisions about vineyard position, orientation and variety might need to be made to ensure the long-term viability of vineyards – and that takes time and preparation.’

The Australia’s Wine Future project is using a combination of climate science, new visualisation techniques and viticultural expertise to establish a comprehensive climate atlas to guide grapegrowers and the broader wine sector.

Initial steps of the project have involved developing crop calendars for the case study regions to identify important weather and climate risks in relation to crop phenology, including heat accumulation, heatwave, drought and frost.

Image: supplied
Rebecca Harris’ project is using climate science to deliver information, tools and practical management options to grapegrowers

The likelihood of these risks changing with climate drivers such as El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation have also been assessed to provide medium and long term information about climate variability.

Finally, the effects of increasing heat on grape growth have been modelled and expected changes in rainfall, growing season temperature and disease pressure have been mapped at decadal time periods. This information is presented graphically for every Australian wine region.

Dr Harris said the team had worked closely with sector partners in six study regions, including the Hunter Valley, Grampians, Tasmania, Riverland, Barossa and Margaret River on the project.

Image: Wine Australia

‘We’ve been working with growers to identify the main weather and climate risks in the region and analyse how these risks may change at a range of future time scales. This is important, because it allows us to identify current approaches to managing weather and climate risks and determine how climate information might best be incorporated to manage risks into the future.’

Dr Harris said working with sector partners was important to ensure the tool was useful and valid – and what the sector wants and needs.

The atlas is in its final stages of preparation and is expected to be launched mid- to late-2019.

‘The ultimate aim of the project is to give grapegrowers the tools to identify the most appropriate adaptation response within each region, so they can maintain grape yield, value and wine quality into the future.

 

Australia’s Wine Future – funded by Wine Australia – is a collaborative research project led by the Antarctic Climate Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC, UTAS) in partnership with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA).


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