Old pests and new grape varieties were the focus of recent Regional Program activity in the Limestone Coast.
Last September, following another wet winter, the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council decided a refresher course on dealing with snails might be appropriate.
‘Snails are of real interest down this way, particularly after two rainy seasons when they have bred up pretty well and there’s the age-old question of how you manage them’, said the Chair of the LCGWC Technical Sub Committee, Kerry DeGaris. ‘With a lot of new plantings going in people are a bit concerned.’
About 40 people attended to hear consultant Michael Nash – from the quaintly named What Bugs You – run through a range of options and strategies, stressing the need for an integrated approach.
Snails, particularly the large brown ones, can be voracious in regions such as the Limestone Coast, denuding vines then sticking around in the canopy to cause problems during and after harvest. They breed well, increasing the population, and are hard to control.
The session also looked at the control of earwigs, which can be equally problematic at bud burst.
‘They tend to eat out the buds, particularly in areas where there has been minimal herbicide use so you have a lot of trash in your vineyard’, De Garis said.
‘I think people have to be aware that if they are going to move towards a practice of less herbicides and tolerating more weeds they will have to address new problems.’
In January, the LCGWC hosted its second workshop on improving the diversity and resilience of Limestone Coast varieties and clones.
The first, held the previous February, focused on Padthaway and Mount Benson. This year’s session, held in Coonawarra, looked at it and other cooler regions, Wrattonbully and Mount Gambier.
‘It was a think tank session on how to go about doing more new plantings and try different clones and rootstocks. We had great speakers such as Nick Dry and Prue Henschke, who talked about vine improvement and some issues they’ve seen.
‘There was real interest in the story of how the Adelaide Hills moved from trialling Grüner Veltliner to really making it their own.’
One of the year’s other big projects didn’t happen because of frost – for the second year in a row. DeGaris and others are champing at the bit to make wine from the Cabernet rootstock trial site that was established back in 2008.
‘It’s really hitting its straps; it’s 10 years old now and you can really see differences between the different rootstocks’, DeGaris said. ‘Last year, we managed to do a field walk that showed people the potential, but that’s about as far as we got thanks to the elements.’
The one upside to the delay is that funding has now been raised to do replicated winemaking; in DeGaris’s words, ‘a proper trial’.
However, frost is unlikely to delay the next two events. A research-to-practice nutrition workshop run by the AWRI will be held in early June, followed by a precision agriculture workshop on apps and drones in the vineyard.