Sign Up

Cool climate wine region the perfect fit for Harriet

RD&A News | April 2022
29 Apr 2022
Previous  | Next   News

Life in Tasmania is a perfect fit for science researcher Harriet Walker. She has bushland and mountains and lakes to explore, and wild beaches to surf (when the weather is kind). And cool climate vines. Lots and lots of cool climate vines.

Harriet’s research is focused on nutrition in vines, with an emphasis on sustainability. The recipient of a Wine Australia scholarship, she recently completed her PhD with the University of Tasmania on Optimising nitrogen management for cool climate vineyards.

In 2019, Harriet was awarded a Wine Australia travel bursary to present her research at a horticultural precision agriculture conference in Palermo, Italy, and had the opportunity to visit several viticultural/oenology research institutes throughout Italy, “and wineries of course! I’ve been hooked ever since,” she said.

Photo provided by University of Tasmania, photographer: OI Studios

Harriet’s research aims to tackle the knowledge gap around the optimal management of nitrogen in cool climate wine regions.

“Nitrogen is essential for vine health, and most commercial vineyards use supplementary nitrogen from synthetic fertilisers to guarantee sufficient yields. However, excess nitrogen can result in unbalanced vines, promoting vegetative growth at the expense of fruit quality,” she said.

“Supplied nitrogen that is not taken up by vines can also result in negative environmental consequences, such as the contamination of groundwater and waterways, and the release of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. So, nitrogen application in vineyards needs to be managed carefully.”

Harriet said in cool climate vineyards, such as those in Tasmania, nitrogen tends to be applied conservatively to help control vine vigour, but this often results in fermentation issues and can compromise wine quality. 

“The majority of nitrogen research that has been performed to date is in Mediterranean climates, which is not readily transferrable to cool climates.

“My research aims to tackle this knowledge gap by determining how nitrogen can be optimally managed in cool climates to then provide tools and guidelines to growers and industry in cool climate wine regions.”

Harriet completed her undergraduate degree in Agriculture Science at the University of Tasmania in 2014, where she received first class honours for her research exploring the impact of various soil amendments, including biochar, humates and effective microorganisms, on soil microbial community demographics and microbial activity in an apple orchard. 

During and after her degree, she spent a couple of summers at a commercial vineyard working among the vines, which increased her interest in viticulture and oenology as a career path to marry her two passions of agriculture (grapevines) and microbiology (winemaking).

Today, Harriet works as a research field technician at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture. Her current project is investigating the use of sea urchin waste as an agricultural fertiliser.

“I love what I do. Every day feels a little different doing research. Your brain is forever ticking, and you are forever learning. 

“I also love the fact that research can have a real-world application, where if you are lucky enough, you may see/hear/experience the change that your research has helped make.”

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

Levy payers/exporters
Non-levy payers/exporters
Find out more

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.