Grape growers are adapting to climate shifts early – and their knowledge can help other farmers

It’s common to think that the cities and farmers of Australia are at odds over climate issues. It’s not the case. In reality, farmers are the frontline and have to deal with the challenges of the changing climate every day.

In the region of Australia Our research has shown that farmers are already preparing for threats from climate change and have found strategies to be more resilient.

Grape growers from the wine industry are among those most responsive. It’s because their harvest is highly sensitive to changes in weather changes and changes in the climate. The farmers have to rapidly learn to adapt in order to protect their business. Make sure to prune for better control of the canopy, planting plants to cover the soil cool and improve soil health and reducing the amount water they are using for irrigation.

The process of establishing a vineyard can take some time, ranging from to five years, before the vines have a complete yield. The grape growers need to adopt an intermediate to long-term approach to farming, and weigh predictions about climate change and market trends that are a decade or more ahead of time. The most successful vignerons recognize the necessity to work in a concerted manner to get positive results. The maintenance of local authority is essential and letting it go could expose new dangers.

Australia’s larger farming community will need to make similar strategies – including lower rainfall in certain regions or finding ways to harness the massive but less frequent rain storms that are predicted for other areas.

The vineyards have had to cut down on their water usage. 

Why have wine grape farmers relocated earlier?

The wine grape growers have had to get their act together early as wine’s market is highly differentiated that is based on varieties. Furthermore, the selection of wine varieties is heavily on soil and water.

In the 2000s and 1990s, Australian wine exports boomed. The majority of the inexpensive and jolly Aussie wines that were destined for shelves in supermarkets across the globe came from irrigation-saturated vineyards across the Murray-Darling Basin. There, grapes are produced at a low cost with plenty of sunlight and a lot of water. However, the days of abundant water aren’t as certain.

Our investigation of south-Australia’s Langhorne Creek wine region has revealed that climate change has the significant effects on water.

In the past, this region depended on groundwater or surface irrigation from the seasonal flooding along local waterways. However, as groundwater was impacted by excess extraction, the aquifers grew more salty.

As a result, farmers tried to limit their reliance on groundwater. Some vineyards installed desalination systems to allow groundwater use again. Local leaders led a campaign to reduce their own allocations and to seek supplies via close by Lake Alexandrina, which the Murray and the other rivers flow into.

Then came the 2001–2009 Millennium Drought, which led to the shallow lake beginning to dry up through lack of inflow. The crisis of these drought years is seared into regional memory. Without a clear end in sight, many began to wonder if the region had a future.

The South Australian Lake Alexandrina shrank markedly during the Millennium Drought, as this image from 2009 illustrates. Larine Statham/AAP

The community was in favor of a new pipeline that was privately owned and drew direct from the Murray. When the pipeline was inaugurated at the end of 2009 it offered Langhorne Creek an important boost to its water security. However, it did so with the intention of tying its future directly to the one from Murray Darling Basin. Murray Darling Basin.

Today, the farming of Langhorne Creek is at the fate of anything that transpires upstream. Following two consecutive years of La Nina rains, there’s plenty of water flowing through the system. In the moment the situation is good however, farmers know better than the majority of people that good times won’t last forever.

In response to the larger changes, many cultivators have increased their cultivation in southern Mediterranean varieties like vermentino or tempranillo, which are better in hotter and less dry conditions than traditional mainstays such cabernet sauvignon or shiraz.

So far, Langhorne Creek offers an outstanding example of how a well-organized community can be effective to combat threats to its environment. As the region is integrated into the larger basin it will face new challenges when it comes to navigating basin-wide management strategies and a growing bureaucraticization of the decision-making process as well as declining public confidence in the management of the basin.

Although the technology fix for the new pipeline has helped the grape farmers overcome an immediate water supply problem but it is not enough to eliminate the larger climate risk. It does demonstrate the need for a forward-looking approach. The challenge for present or future farmers will be to be attentive to the new climate threats and resolving them through robust and coordinated local actions as well as political collaboration.

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