Thursday, August 28, 2008

Alliance Herbicide - UPDATE 28/08/2008

Below are photographs showing the affect of Alliance Herbicide on various weed species in a vineyard located at Blewitt Springs (McLaren Vale GI), South Australia.

The yineyard had a problem with Glyphosate Resistant Annual Ryegrass. Glyphosate was becoming less effective and more costly for the grower to apply. As these photographs indicate the correct choice was made with the use of Alliance as it has been able to control the weed.

The Application was made on the 1st July 2008. The first two photographs were taken on the 18th July 2008. The day time temperature never exceeded 15 Degrees for the full 18 days.

Ryegrass 18 days after application.

Capeweed 45 days after application.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2007 Wine Grape Crush Information

Commercial Reality

The Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of SA has published the SA Winegrape and Pricing Survey 2008. This survey always thrown up some heavy debate particularly in regards to the ‘district average area price,’ now called calculated average purchase price. Again this will spark debate - the district average area price for McLaren Vale Shiraz is recorded as 15% higher than the Barossa Valley at $1,900 vs $1730. The Adelaide Hills was reported to be $1,699.

It is worthwhile considering the production figure too. Earlier in the year the total production in Australia was reported to be 1.8 million tonnes. The WFA reported; ‘2008 the Australian wine industry’s winegrape intake increased by almost 31% over the 2007 vintage to an estimated crush of 1.83 million tonnes.’

The Riverland was just over 400,000 tonnes, when it has been as high as 800,000 tonnes! The Riverland was 1/2 its peak production. Yet Australia has a big crush.

Either some of these figures are wrong, or grape production has rapidly increased interstate! If these figures are right than if/when full irrigation licenses return to the Riverland the expected grape crush will be massive. An obvious prediction based on these figures would be 2.2 million tonnes.

Also for debate the total McLaren Vale production was reported as 54,602 tonnes as compared to in the drought affected 2007 harvest on 33,000 – a 40% increase.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Does McLaren Vale have an Organic Future?

Could the McLaren Vale region be one big sustainable food basket?

James Hook argues the answer has to be yes.

If McLaren Vale has a future as a farming region it must embrace sustainable farming. It needs to produce products that attract premium prices to be financially sustainable. It needs to act as a steward for the region and protect the area from the perils of urbanization. The widespread adoption sustainable, high quality farming taking the best from organic and/or biodynamic techniques will maintain the vitality of the region and give McLaren Vale producers a sustained competitive advantage in their winemaking. This will allow higher prices for grapes which increases the value of the land, which decreases the pressure to put in housing.

I feel the way to do this is to adopt sustainable farming as a code of practice for the whole district, as an industry and as a community to challenge ourselves and reap the benefits.

Reduced demand, lower wine grape prices and diminishing profit margins mean production of high quality fruit in McLaren Vale has become vital for winegrowers. For ill or good the strength and growth in the wine industry has greatly contributed to the region. The future of the grape growing and winemaking and the future of the area are intertwined. At present there is an oversupply of C grade fruit in the region, fruit that is made into wine in the $10-15 dollar per bottle range. There is high demand for A grade fruit which produces wine above $25 per bottle. It is at these quality levels that the majority of viticultural businesses need to be producing to be profitable. Conventional agriculture has not given us that with much of our fruit falling below the top grades.

What we describe as conventional agriculture is a recent trend. With the appearance of cheap mineral fertilisers and pesticides in the early 1950s, farmers quickly abandoned traditional or organic methods of farming and became heavily dependent on both agrochemicals and labour-saving machinery. Farmers discontinued organic methods not because they did not work but because they could not compete with the new type of agriculture.

Accepted practice viewed organic farming as inefficient. The race was to grow the most, not to grow in the most sustainable way. Grape growers received similar prices whether they grew 5 tonnes to the hectare or 15 tonnes. The emphasis was big is better. In spite of this, organic farming was pioneered because many local growers looked for ways to reduce the amount of fertilisers and pesticides they were using.

Enter the modern concept of sustainable farming. Not a return to the past, rather a marriage of scientific advances with traditional practices.

In the McLaren Vale wine industry, Battle of Bosworth, Rino and Greta Ozzella at Grancari Estate and many others certified their vineyard organic. Unsung growers like the late Modestino Piombo developed a successful vineyard at Sellicks Hill with little more than a dodge plow and wettable sulphur. Recently Paxton viticulture have successfully converted significant amounts of vineyard to BioDynamics, an organic system with soil as the key factor in farming, and sustainability as the goal. The Leask family, Doole vineyards and the Gemtree wines have all converted vineyards to this system.

Following the lead of these pioneers elements of the organic and biodynamic philosophy have been starting catch on with mainstream grape growers.

The pioneers were concerned, above all else, about the soil beneath their feet. Organic and Biodynamic philosophy is centred on practices designed to improve the richness and stability of the soil by restoring its organic matter and avoiding synthetic chemicals.

Not surprisingly this commitment to soil balance also has a flow on effect to wine quality. Many of the characteristics of a well maintained organic or biodynamic vineyard have the same traits of vineyards that achieve A grade results. This is particularly the case with McLaren Vale staples Shiraz and Grenache. They have moderate vigour, develop open canopies, catch a good deal of sunlight, have thicker skins, are not over fertilised and have balanced soil.

McLaren Vale has many advantages that make sustainable wine production a reality. The area has creek lines and roadsides that can be re-vegetated to offset farming energy demands and electrical power can be generated from shed and winery roof space. McLaren Vale’s soils are perfect for farming and we have a ready supply of organic fertilisers from Adelaide’s waste and animal farming nearby.

Currently 40% of the grape growers water needs are filled by reclaimed water from Adelaide with plans ahead to increase this, and the balance of water comes from underground sources which are carefully monitored to make sure are healthy.
Pastures grow well in between our vine rows stopping soil erosion. Mechanical weeding or new plant based herbicides can control weeds where they are not needed.

McLaren Vale has relatively low risk of disease affecting yield and quality. Powdery Mildew is a slow creeping disease that is limited by sunlight. Open canopies that let sunlight into the fruit zone inhibit its growth naturally; these same open canopies have the advantage of suiting A grade red wine production. Organically registered products like sulphur are effective in controlling the disease.

Downy Mildew is a rare occurrence in the district with the last significant outbreak in 1992. Downy Mildew needs wet summers where significant rain occurs in November and December. Wet summers are infrequent. When the next wet summer comes with increased knowledge about the disease, I believe with the correct timing, grape growers can use copper as an emergency measure to limit Downy’s effects and still meet organic requirements. Botrytis is a hit and miss problem. A grade red varieties with tough skins will always fair better than those which are pumped up and weak skinned. Nature is clever like that.

The pioneers have showed the district how. Organic practices use cheap and locally available resources. Vineyards are being successfully farmed avoiding factors over which farmers have little control: mineral fertilisers and synthetic pesticides. The opportunity is here to make the region the centre of sustainable grape growing.

I feel adopting organic practices on a wide scale represents an effective way to reduce the oversupply of C grade fruit and promote more fruit into the A grade. Is organic certification, or whole hearted Biodynamics in its pure form the solution, maybe not? However the concept of widespread semi-organics by adopting organic techniques to increase soil health, decrease the use of unnecessary farm inputs and push towards sustainability is attainable and attractive.

I am not suggesting we change the world, just look at what is happening in the region and see where we fit into it. The scientist in me tells me this is possible. It is all practical and we have made a reasonable start, now is the time to keep striving.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

10% Greentip EL 04 - UPDATE 20/8/2008

Budswell to Greentip

Bud Burst Begins

Chardonnay in McLaren Vale will be at 10% Greentip on or about the 24th of August. Adelaide Hills vineyards still have 2-4 weeks until bud movement. Greentip in Chardonnay is the trigger for Rust Mite movement. 

10% Greentip also signals the end of using 2% Canola Oil for Scale Control.

The negative is when Greentip occurs it also is the signal for when vines can be affected by frost and hail damage.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Herbicide Spikes - Hammer vs Goal - Q&A

Hi DJ's,

Should I use Hammer or Goal as a spike Herbicide?


Ryan J

Good question Ryan. 

You can also consider Striker or Oxen or any of the other generic version of Goal that have come onto the market in recent years. Also note there is the horticultural formulation of Hammer called Spotlight.
Blackberry nightshade and other difficult to control weeds 21 days after application of Roundup PowerMax (540g/L Glyphosate) @ 2.5Lt/ha and Hammer @25ml/ha.

All of these spike herbicides are used with Glyphosate to increase the spectrum of weeds Glyphosate controls. In McLaren Vale these are usually used to knockout Marshmallow and Blackberry nightshade.
The main difference is Goal (and Striker/Oxen) act as a spike on grass weeds and broadleaf weeds - Hammer (and the new Spotlight) are only effective on broadleaves. Hammer can be used all year round in grapevines - Goal can be used only in dormancy. After bud burst using Goal is not recommended.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Rust Mite - Q&A

Hi DJ's,

I am looking for some information on Rust Mite? What do you look for and how do you treat it? When is the timing of treatment?



We commonly ask growers these questions - 

Do you have poor early season growth?
Do you see rusty coloured leaves at harvest?

Chances are these symptoms are caused by Rust Mites. In wet spring conditions late bursting grape varieties can show poor spring growth symptoms commonly called ‘cold damage’ or restricted spring growth. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are the major varieties that have a problem with poor early season growth.

Rust Mite bronzing on a leaf.

Poor growth symptoms show up as distorted leaves and uneven growth after budburst. This effect is worse when cold and wet weather occurs in Spring.

These symptoms are caused by the Rust Mites feeding on developing shoots and bunches during the early season.

After flowering, during late summer, these Rust Mites turn vine leaves bronze giving them the ‘rusty’ look.

A woolly bud wettable sulfur spray against rust mite is recommended if rusty or bronzed leaves were obvious in your vineyard in last Autumn after harvest.


Wettable sulfur @ 500g/100lt (mite control label rate).

Check you ‘brand’ of Sulfur has mites on label.

Water rates of 600 – 900lt of water per hectare are recommended to ensure good coverage of the bark.

Growers have successfully used recirculating sprayers reduce waste.

Inclusion of Canola oil at 2% (2lt per 100lt) has been reported to improve control by up to 10-15%, but should only be applied if the variety being sprayed is fully dormant.

Spraying green vine tissue with oil has a risk of burning the developing shoot.

You should check your oil is GMO free.


Rust Mites move on all varieties in response to temperature.

Chardonnay is the indicator variety for timing of spraying in each region. Chardonnay in the warmest part of McLaren Vale – the Sellicks Foothills are now at 10% Greentip (EL 4). Growers in the Barossa Valley are also approaching Greentip.

DJ’s feel the window for rust mite control in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale begins late this week – August 22nd and remains effective until the 4th of September. Growers in the Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Coonawarra will have a longer window.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What is wrong with Roundup?

Will pricing pressure act as a catalyst for change? Glyphosate prices rise.

One of the pressing issues for farmers is the price increase of farm inputs. Issues with the rise of Diesel have been well noted, however the increased cost of production have also been pushed by an increase in the cost of the most widely used herbicide Glyphosate, often still referred to by its original tradename Roundup.

Recent market forces have seen the price of Glyphosate effectively triple. Worldwide demand has increased triggered by increasing herbicide use in the developing world and the planting of genetically modified Canola in North and South America for use as biofuel. The Australian market is small in comparison to these larger markets. Global supply is not meeting up with demand and prices are rising. Last season in Australia the price of a 20Lt container of 360 gram per litre Glyphosate was just over $100. Currently the same product would cost $250-280.

McLaren Vale vineyard in August prior to bud burst (EL-4).

In vineyards under row weed management is necessary to conserve water, remove noxious weeds, and prevent growth into the vine canopy where weeds can contaminate the grape crop. Beginning in the 1970’s farmers moved from cultivation to control weeds and switched to the use of herbicides. The chief tool used was Glyphosate, a Group M herbicide. It was cost effective and its use became almost universal.

The current price increase has caused many to consider the way they use herbicide in their vineyard and take a much closer look at the efficiency of it use.

The increase in the cost of Glyphosate is not the only negative with its continuing use. Organic vineyard techniques are designed to replace herbicides due to their environmental effects. Organic and biodynamic farmers are particularly concerned with the effect of Glyphosate on soil micro-organisms. Glyphosate is seen as an undesirable product due to its effect on soil. Applications are considered to cause a reduction in the number of beneficial soil micro-organisms and arthropods. Studies show a reduction in the species that build humus, thus it contributes to the decline in soil organic matter (Cox, 1998).

When Glyphosate comes into contact with the soil, it rapidly binds to soil particles and is inactivated. Unbound Glyphosate is degraded by bacteria. This has the effect of ‘feeding’ bacteria which in turn limits the development of beneficial fungi in the soil. Bacteria generally break down nutrients in the soil, while fungi are of great benefit as they help improve soil structure and make nutrients better available to plants.
Glyphosate significantly reduces the activity of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These bacteria transform soil nitrogen into forms that plants can use. Studies of Soybeans grown for nitrogen fixation showed a reduction in the number of rhizobium bacteria and the nitrogen they produce when Glyphosate was used for weed control (Lehmann and Pengue, 2000).

Another major issue with the widespread use of Glyphosate has been the development of herbicide resistant annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum). Annual ryegrass is a commonly found across the south eastern Australia. In vine crops 13 sites have been officially documented as being Glyphosate resistant in South Australia and Western Australia (Preston, 2008). The majority of cases are not documented and problem is widespread. This is particularly the case in vineyards that were previously old orchards and received multiple Glyphosates without rotation to another herbicide group.

In the vineyard, Glyphosate resistant annual ryegrass populations generally begin to appear as a scattering of single plants or small patches of plants that have survived a Glyphosate application. After frequent herbicide applications these grass populations have evolved from being susceptible to being resistant to Glyphosate herbicides. The Ryegrass is not controlled by Glyphosate and multiplies becoming a weed.
Many farmers are finding ryegrass is becoming more of an issue and it has become a serious problem.

However negative issues revolving around the use of Glyphosate it is still the most widely used herbicide in viticulture. It is likely to continue to be in the foreseeable future. The increased cost of the product and environmental issues have highlighted how it when used it must be correctly and efficiently applied.

The effects of Glyphosate on soil micro-organisms can be minimised by rotation with other products or the adoption of organic techniques to limit its use. For organic growers, where the use of herbicides is not an option, cultivation has remained as the primary source of control. In many situations the heavy application of mulch can replace the need to use herbicides as frequently. As an added benefit mulches enhance vine productivity by limiting evaporation of water during summer.

Herbicide resistant ryegrass can also be controlled by organic techniques. Commercial trialling of under vine mowing is underway. Cultivation in sandy soils with ‘dodge’ plough remains common in the Blewitt Springs subregion of McLaren Vale and more vineyards may look to this modern variations of this technique.

Relative cost of usage for Glyphosate and alternative knockdown herbicides - July 2008.
Where herbicides need to be used alternative herbicide groups can be used to reduce the amount of ryegrass before it sets seed to continue another generation. In 2008 some new formulations have been developed to specifically target herbicide resistant ryegrass. The knockdown herbicides Amitrole, a group Sprayseed, Diquat and paraquat and combinations, Alliance a group L/Q herbicide of these actives represent a good option for where resistant ryegrass is a problem. Over a period of two to three years these Glyphosate alternatives can be used to eliminate the resistant ryegrass.

Higher Glyphosate costs are closing the price gap between Glyphosate treatment and using a pre-emergent herbicides as an alternative. Products like Stomp and Rifle, Group D herbicides with the active ingredient Pendimethalin, may come into wider use.

What is clear is with Glyphosate prices at an all time high, farmers need to get the best results they can. Families of adjuvant have developed to compliment Glyphosate. Ammonium Sulphate, Liase or Ammend, is used to soften water that contains high levels of calcium. In the many regions underground water and town water supplies are found to be high in calcium which limits the effectiveness of Glyphosate. Pulse is an aid to penetration of waxy plants; Goal, Striker, and Hammer/Spotlight, all Group G herbicides are used as spikes on hard to control weeds allowing lower rates of herbicide to be applied.

With a high cost the efficient application of Glyphosate is important. Any spray drift is a waste of money. Incorrect maintenance of spray equipment can lead to nozzle wear which wastes chemical. Incorrect spray calibration and pressure can lead to high proportion of small droplets which are prone to drift, or large droplets that splatter. Checking the efficiency of herbicide systems is always important, but with increasing production costs it is vital.

Industry analysts predict the price of Glyphosate will continue to rise, therefore adding to the increasing the cost of grape production. Increased production cost force alternatives to herbicide use to become commercially more widespread. Increased costs also focus on the correct use of Glyphosate in order to keep it a useful tool in farming production.



Cox, Carolyn. "Herbicide Factsheet: Glyphosate (Roundup)," Journal of Pesticide Reform, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Fall 1998, Updated October 2000)

Lehmann V. and Pengue W. (2000), Herbicide Tolerant Soybean: Just another step in a technology treadmill? Biotechnology and Development Monitor. September 2000.

Preston, C. (2005) Australian Glyphosate Resistance Register. National Glyphosate Sustainability Working Group. Online. Available