Ape Grow­ing the In­dus­try

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Wine - Wine

Chal­leng­ing and chang­ing con­di­tions have forced South Aus­tralian farm­ers to be smart and eco­nom­i­cal with their land - stretch­ing all the way back to the stump-jump plough. Peter Hack­worth, Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of the Wine Grape Coun­cil of South Aus­tralia, says to­day’s farm­ers are no dif­fer­ent - and they de­serve to be recog­nised – so he has es­tab­lished the Vin­no­va­tion Award.

“I thought there must still be peo­ple out there be­ing in­ven­tive, but it’s hard for farm­ers to put their hand up - they’re quite mod­est peo­ple,” Hack­worth says.

The awards will be held on July 17 at Ade­laide Oval. The four fi­nal­ists have de­signed in­no­va­tive ideas, prac­tices and equip­ment that will be pre­sented to over 200 wine grape grow­ers.

“The cri­te­ria we as­sess them by is their abil­ity to make an im­pact, to ac­tu­ally save money and make money, the cost of adopt­ing the prac­tice, and the abil­ity of it to be ap­plied across the state.”

The fi­nal­ists in­clude sys­tems of de­lay­ing ripen­ing across dif­fer­ent ar­eas of a vine­yard, bet­ter sprayers for pre­vent­ing Eu­typa out­breaks, rapid pro­cess­ing of GPS yield data, and a grape bin with in­built scales. “Most of them aren’t in­ter­ested in com­mer­cial­is­ing the ideas - they’re just in­ter­ested in grow­ing grapes but they’re happy to share them. “Were look­ing at get­ting engi­neer­ing plans made for the spray unit and the trailer, for ex­am­ple, and make them avail­able so peo­ple can make them them­selves or have them made. “It’s clas­sic farming - not want­ing to get fur­ther away from what they like do­ing.”

Ma­tu­rity de­lay­ing tech­niques for slop­ing vine­yards

Kim An­der­son, from the Ade­laide Hills, has de­vel­oped a suite of tech­niques to en­sure more even ripen­ing of his fruit across his slop­ing property.

Fruit at the top of the block ripens sig­nif­i­cantly faster (a dif­fer­ence of 1.5 - 2 Baume) than at the bot­tom, caus­ing man­age­ment prob­lems come har­vest time.

In gen­eral, fruit is ripen­ing a month ear­lier than it was 30 years ago thanks to a warmer cli­mate - the abil­ity to de­lay and get more even crops is of in­creas­ing in­ter­est to grow­ers.

An­der­son has ap­plied three trial meth­ods. By us­ing her­bi­cide on the un­der­vine grass in the lower block, and keep­ing it in­tact on the higher ground un­til bud­burst, the soil at the top of the block is kept cooler. At har­vest the dif­fer­ent be­tween fruit ripeness was only 0.1 Baume.

An­other tech­nique was trim­ming the vines just above the high­est fruit­ing nodes early in the sea­son - this de­lays ripen­ing by about a month and com­ple­ments the other tech­niques well.

Fi­nally, An­der­son pruned cer­tain vines very late in the sea­son to de­lay their de­vel­op­ment and mea­sured them against a con­trol group. The re­sults were a suc­cess.

An­der­son’s tech­niques al­low greater uni­for­mity to vine growth stages across a slop­ing block. There are also ad­van­tages to fruit ripen­ing in cooler months, en­hanc­ing flavour de­vel­op­ment and max­imis­ing the value of fruit.

Bin Trailer with built in scales

Bill and Phil Longbottom from Padth­away, South Aus­tralia, are in­de­pen­dent grape grow­ers who sup­ply to a num­ber of pro­ces­sors Their bins were pre­vi­ously loaded in the vine­yard be­fore be­ing driven to and off­loaded at a weigh­ing pad. This re­sulted in un­der or over­loaded grape bins and a higher risk of accident - for ex­am­ple a fork­lift tip­ping when han­dling an over­weight bin. There are also price penal­ties for over-de­liv­er­ing on con­tracts or over­load­ing trucks.

The so­lu­tion was to build a dual-axle trailer with sus­pen­sion and built in scales, that dis­plays a dig­i­tal read­out to the har­vester op­er­a­tor. All con­struc­tion was un­der­taken on their farm at an es­ti­mated cost of $6000.

Ben­e­fits of their in­no­va­tion in­clude be­ing able to off­load bins straight on to de­liv­ery trucks to save dou­ble­han­dling the grapes, bet­ter sched­ul­ing for trucks, bet­ter yield es­ti­ma­tion dur­ing pick­ing, re­duced noise thanks to sus­pen­sion, and it re­moves the prob­lem of vari­a­tion in vol­ume weight be­tween va­ri­eties. They’ve paid for their de­vice in one sea­son by sell­ing the fruit that is ex­cess to pro­cess­ing con­tracts to other winer­ies in­stead.

Rapid GPS yield map­ping and anal­y­sis

Hans Loder works in min­ing, but he has an on­go­ing as­so­ci­a­tion with Coon­awarra’s Kat­nook Es­tate.

Kat­nook uses GPS yield mon­i­tors on its har­vesters to ac­cu­rately track yield across vine­yards. The data col­lected was typ­i­cally sent for pro­cess­ing in to yield maps that took sev­eral months to be pro­cessed and de­liv­ered, much too late to be of use in har­vest­ing de­ci­sions.

Loder de­vel­oped a script to process the data within 24 hours of the har­vester mov­ing through the block. It by­passes ex­pen­sive map­ping soft­ware to dis­play data na­tively in Google Earth.

Pix­els are colour coded ac­cord­ing to yield for quick anal­y­sis. The data is also dis­played in much higher res­o­lu­tions than be­fore with data points down to 150mm al­low­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of in­di­vid­ual vines and se­lec­tive har­vest­ing of high value fuit. Kat­nook re­duced its data pro­cess­ing costs by 75 per cent, us­ing the new yield maps to its ad­van­tage in prun­ing, nu­tri­tion and weed man­age­ment.

Re­cir­cu­lat­ing cor­don sprayer

Ben Blows is an in­de­pen­dent grape grower from Mac­cles­field. Cool and wet cli­mate grapevines, like Blows’ vine­yard, are of­ten af­fected by Eu­typa, a fun­gus which in­fects prun­ing wounds and short­ens the life of vines sig­nif­i­cantly.

Blows de­signed and con­structed a re­cir­cu­lat­ing sprayer to re­duce the spread of Eu­typa. His cor­don sprayer uses four noz­zles on each side, tar­geted to hit prun­ing wounds while al­low­ing spray­ing at up to

seven kilo­me­tres per hour.

The sprayer was put to­gether with com­po­nents from other ma­chin­ery and vine­yard waste, in­clud­ing a mount from a leaf blower, pump from an older sprayer, and 44 gal­lon drums. The cost of the de­vice was es­ti­mated at $6000.

Sprays are ap­plied within 48 hours of com­plet­ing prun­ing. The sprayer uses a re­duced vol­ume of chem­i­cals, which di­rectly re­sults in sav­ings and al­lows him to use a smaller tank, lim­ited soil com­paction in his high rain­fall vine­yard.

Long term, Ben expects that the greater pro­tec­tion from Eu­typa will sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove the com­mer­cial life of his vines.

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