The National EcoVineyards program, which assists grape growers in improving soil health, planting ground cover plants, and increasing functional beneficial biodiversity, is now ramping up its activities to support growers throughout Australia, with the second round of regional soil health field events underway.
The event is aimed at educating growers about the importance of healthy soils in vineyards.
In Australia, over many years of research, it has been shown that groundcovers in vineyards (including cover crops) can improve soil health. This will provide a stronger foundation for the grapevines. Biodiversity is also proven to increase the resilience of vines and enhance sustainability by reducing the need for pest control and weeding.
EcoVineyards, a program funded by Wine Australia and delivered by Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd., offers practical and regionally-specific options that help growers increase their sustainability, resilience, and profitability.
Retallack Viticulture’s Managing Director, Dr Mary Retallack, said that since the launch of mid-last year, a variety of initiatives have been implemented to help growers.
We are currently launching the second round (events take place each autumn and spring). In addition, we have created a booklet and poster called ‘Soil Health Indices for Australian Vineyards’ to help growers benchmark their soil health and track it.
We have just announced new EcoGrowers for each region participating. The EcoGrowers, in collaboration with local experts, will set up diverse demonstration sites within their vineyards. This will provide local and practical insights.
EcoVineyards will be sharing updates via Facebook and Instagram. (@EcoVineyards) These updates will include a series of case studies.
From June to September 30, the Great Aussie EcoVineyards Earthworm Count is also being held. Best practice management guides, tools, and support on key focus areas, as well as a podcast, will be released later in the year.
Improve soil health to improve biodiversity.
Dr Retallack suggested that growers consider switching from a monoculture to a polyculture, which has associated benefits for soil health and biodiversity.
“What we consider a traditional vineyard is an example of monoculture, where grapevines are grown in isolation. It can lead to a fragile system with a poor buffer, where weeds and pests are often dominant and regular interventions are required in order to produce a harvest.
“A polyculture vineyard is a better option. It has the right plants, attracts the correct insects and animals and promotes soil health and functional biodiversity.” These complex vineyards are more resilient to disruptions (such as extreme weather events) and can self-regulate with less intervention.
Growers can benefit from the program.
Dr Retallack stated that there are many benefits to participating in the program for farmers.
“EcoVineyards offers winegrape growers a collection of tools and resources that complements their current management practices and encourages improvements. The information provided is both practical and gives solutions to common problems.
“The benefits multiply as we begin to work with nature’s intelligence. The focus is on working smarter, not harder. This will reduce the amount of inputs and save time.