If Powdery Mildew was Polio or Tuberculosis we would have eradicated it from grape vines decades ago! So now we get to the good (challenging) part of this story. Peter Magarey is one of the (very) few plant pathologists specialising in grape vines still practicing in regional Australia and he’s right here in the Riverland. Peter has played a key role in the CropWatch story for 25 years and despite advancing Parkinson’s Disease he is still the chief author. It is Peter that we all turn to for an interpretation of almost any weather event during the growing season. It is only through his determination to continuously improved the service that the recent features have been developed around GrowCare and especially the new ‘mobile-phone-connect’ feature.
This may seem a little ‘dry’ but read on. History is important when mapping futures.
In 1970, research on grapevine downy mildew in the Riverland began in Loxton. From 1970-75, the Department of Agriculture’s plant pathologist Peter Dry began investigating the conditions favouring disease. With others from 1976, began what turned into a 50-year investigation into improved management of downy mildew in Australian vineyards.
From all reports in the past week, demand for Riverland Winegrapes is STRONG; so strong in fact it’s been very hard to get any grapes listed on the Grapes for Sale Register, a far cry from the days when the register would open in January with more than 10,000 tonnes and peak in late February with as many as 25,000. Following last week’s publication of Kingston Estate Wines prices, there has been a flurry of activity among willing buyers and willing sellers with uncontracted fruit for 2020.
The first two weeks of 2020 have been flat chat for most growers and winemakers as preparations continue towards an uncertain harvest; uncertain because of the unknowns with very few price offers finalised and yield predictions all over the place, partly due to recent hot weather but more so because of the stress and strain over water. Imagine if we didn’t have 100%. That’s very much on the cards for 2020.
The private carryover policy came into effect in the 2019-20 water use year and the NRM Board has heard that amendments could be made to improve its effectiveness.
The 2019 River Murray water allocation plan incorporated an updated private carryover policy as a drought management measure and changes are proposed so that carryover can be rolled over from one year to the next in a series of dry years instead of being lost if allocations reach 100 per cent.
In June of 2018 Riverland Wine growers boldly invited a team of senior academics from the University of Adelaide to come to the Riverland and work with them to develop digital technology, specifically to reduce production costs. The team of ten ‘Thinking Growers’ (T10), referred to the nine academics as the ‘Nerdy Nine’ (N9). They became friends. Wine Australia came along and encouraged the two groups to work together. Riverland Wine made a cash contribution to establish a trial. The state government jumped in and doubled the money. Wine Australia added some more cash and more encouragement and the trial of a range of remote sensing devices began.
This week, in a joint media release, the University, Wine Australia and Riverland Wine have announced a $5 million digital technologies project to be undertaken in the region over the next several years. PIRSA are keenly supporting the work as are CCW.
The first serious challenge for the researchers is to show growers that this technology is well and truly affordable and within their reach and that it will reduce production costs. A target date of June 30 this year has been set as the deadline for a ‘show ‘n tell’ field day to illustrate the sorts of sensors that may be utilised and how the data collected, will be presented in user friendly ‘dashboard’ views.
In September, after the Wine Industry Market Study, ACCC Commissioner Mick Keough said “Wine grape sector contracts and price transparency must improve. Kingston Estate Wines prices were released last week and management have agreed these may be published in the interests of all stakeholders. Managing Director Bill Moularadellis said his team had anguished over the intelligence from overseas markets with consistent messages of downward pressure on grape prices. They also acknowledged the water-price burden, predominantly being carried by the grower sector. “If we want our growers to continue growing grapes through these difficult times and to be able to maintain supply to our long standing customers, we believe it is only fair to wear some increased market risk”.
Save the date: Tuesday, February 4 at LRC
The South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management (SAMDB NRM) Board, in partnership with the Department for Environment and Water (DEW), is considering potential amendments to the private carryover policy included in the River Murray Water Allocation Plan.