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19 May 2023
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The National EcoVineyards Program – which helps grapegrowers to improve soil health, plant ground cover plants, and increase functional beneficial biodiversity – is ramping up activities supporting growers around Australia, with the second round of regional soil health field events now underway.

Growers are being encouraged to attend one of the events to learn more about the benefits of healthy soils and biodiversity in their vineyards.

Over many years, research completed in different Australian conditions has shown that planting groundcovers (including cover crops) in vineyards can improve soil health and provide a better foundation for grapevines. Biodiversity has similarly been proven to improve the resilience of vineyards and can improve sustainability by minimising the need for pest and weed control. 

The EcoVineyards program, funded by Wine Australia and delivered by Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd, provides regionally-specific and practical options to help growers improve their sustainability, resilience and profitability. 

Retallack Viticulture Managing Director, Dr Mary Retallack, said since the launch mid-last year, a number of initiatives to support growers are coming to fruition.

“We’re currently rolling out the second round of soil health field events (events are held each autumn and spring) and we have developed the ‘Soil Health Indicators for Australian Vineyards’ booklet and a poster to help growers benchmark and track their soil health.
“We have also just announced the new EcoGrowers in each participating region. The EcoGrowers will work with local experts to set up a diverse range of demonstration sites in their vineyards to provide local, practical insights.”

Updates are being shared via the EcoVineyards Facebook and Instagram (@EcoVineyards), and will feature a series of case studies.

The Great Aussie EcoVineyards Earthworm Count will also be held from June until 30 September; and best practice management guides, support tools on key focus areas and a podcast series will be launched later in the year. 

The power of improving soil health and biodiversity

Dr Retallack said that growers should consider changing their vineyard from a typical monoculture to a more complex environmental system (polyculture) which associated benefits to soil health and biodiversity.

“What we think of as a ‘traditional’ vineyard is a good example of a monoculture where the grapevine is growing in isolation.  This can result in a fragile and poorly buffered system where problem weeds and insects often dominate, and regular intervention is required to produce a crop. 

“A better approach is to have a vineyard within a polyculture – one which has appropriate plants and attracts the right insects and animals, with good functional biodiversity and soil health.  These more complex vineyards can rebound more quickly after disruption (including extreme weather events) and are able to self-regulate more effectively with less intervention over time.”

Benefits for growers

Dr Retallack said there were many benefits for growers in being involved in the program.
“EcoVineyards provides winegrape growers with a set of tools and resources to both complement their existing management practices and encourage improvements. The information is practical and provides solutions to everyday challenges.

“The benefits multiply as we start to work with the intelligence of nature. It’s a focus on working smarter rather than harder, to reduce the use of inputs to create time savings associated with a longer-term view of breaking the cycle of intervention,” said Dr Retallack.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about the benefits of joining the program, go to the ‘How will growers benefit’ section on the EcoVineyards website

Regional on-ground coordinators (ROCs) are also available to answer any questions that growers may have in participating regions and can be contacted via the EcoVineyards team

Images in this article are courtesy Dr Mary Retallack and Janet Klein.

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