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Ecosystem Services



This project aims to expand the knowledge base regarding the functional biodiversity benefits of ground cover species and different types of adjacent vegetation. Certain plant species grown in and around vineyards can provide tangible benefits to the operation of the site, such as supporting predators of common vineyard pests.


In Europe, New Zealand and California, vineyard owners are increasingly investigating the planting of certain types of groundcovers, combined with the protection of surrounding vegetation, to assist with the management of vineyard pests, disease and weeds. The benefits that flow from this natural system approach are termed ‘ecosystem services’ and sometimes result in reduced operating costs for farming businesses due to a reduction in inputs such as agrochemicals.

This project will expand the limited understanding of ecosystem services in an Australian vineyard context by studying a range of groundcover species and vineyard vegetation in field and lab trials.

Research approach

The project will integrate three work streams to produce grower-friendly tools for the optimal selection and management of groundcovers under a range of settings.

  1. Randomised, replicated field trials of groundcover treatments that have already been established or marked out on sites in NSW for the water use project will be used to assess the effects the benefits, biotic threats and frost risk. A split-plot design that will allow simultaneous study of groundcovers in permutations of mid-row and under-vine sub-treatments.
  2. A wide range of potential groundcover species will be assessed and benchmarked against those species established in the field trials and under laboratory conditions to determine if any of these have superior attributes for delivery of key ecosystem series.
  3. The strength and value of ‘spillover’ effects into vineyards from various types of vegetation in vineyard surrounds will be measured. At least 35 native plant species will feature among the plant communities’ studies including native grasses such as wallaby grasses (Austrodanthonia spp) and red grass (Bothriochloa macra). Pollen from plants such as these grasses is likely to benefit the vineyard activity of beneficial mites (e.g. Euseius victoriensis (‘Victoria’) and Typhlodromus doreenae (‘Doreen’)) that are predators of rust, bud and blister mite pests. This work will use sampling transects into the focal vineyards, linked to GIS analyses of wider scale land uses. As for the field trials, we will consider the traits (rather than just taxonomic identity) of the plants growing in the vineyard surrounds so that results are generalisable to other production districts in Australia.

Work will be based on the Orange campus of Charles Sturt University using well-established laboratory infrastructure and will also use vineyards in the Orange region of NSW, with treatments applied across two seasons at two commercially operated Shiraz vineyards with contrasting elevation, training systems and water supply. 

Treatments at the field sites will be implemented progressively with under-vine clover and medic mix sown in autumn or late winter, mid-row treatments applied at bud-break. Responses will be monitored using well-established methods.

To assist with adoption of the research findings, the functional trait data may be incorporated into Wine Australia’s existing Cover Crop Finder tool which is used by growers to inform their choice of vineyard groundcover for the optimal selection and management of groundcovers under a range of settings. 

Sector benefits

This research will provide practical, evidence-based strategies to promote ecosystem services for vineyard management. This may reduce use of chemical inputs for pest, disease, nitrogen and weed management and so lessen production costs. Co-benefits could include an improvement in soil health and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (through avoidance of the need for herbicides or nitrogen inputs).

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

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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.