Thursday, April 5, 2012

Climate Change in Viticulture - Q&A

Hi DJ's,
I am new to viticulture, and since I started my studies I have been hearing about the potential impact that global warming will have on grape growing; for most irrigation dependent regions, the news was all bad. So if this is the case has anyone been planning for the changes?
I get the feeling we just focus on each season and its issues.... no rain when we want it, rain when we don't, prices down, costs up, good labour scarce etc. No one I have come across seems to be planning for the potential contingencies that will/ may arise from global warming. What type of planning are you doing with respect to climate change and its impact on your capacity to grow grapes profitably?

Cheers,

Mat

Hi Mat,

An interesting post Mat the simple answer to your fundamental question is yes, we do think about the long term affect of climate change in vineyards.

There is some new research showing that for first time been able to attribute early ripening of wine grapes to climate warming and declines in soil water content. The study reveals that management factors has also influenced the shift, offering hope for growers to develop adaptation strategies.

Assumptions we make.


We assume that the weather will get warmer and there will be less rain, critically there will be less rain in Winter and Spring. There is debate about this and sometimes there are more questions than answers.
Changes in the weather are very complicated and beyond the scope of single businesses to comprehend. By way of illustration what do you do if you are someone like say Yalumba or Henschke? You have established vineyards - some well over 100 years. There is no imaginable replacement for these vineyards - they are the epitome of your brand and style. You can't simply change varieties or replace iconic vineyards.

What we do encourage.


Building up levels of soil organic matter to try and increase the capacity of our soils to hold moisture. Being more fussy about vine balance and shoot thinning, in Shiraz and Grenache, to try and reduce crop loads and shoot numbers to manage and heatwave, hot, dry and windy conditions. Managing soil moisture content through increasing irrigation or mulching, or vine rootstock choice.

Additional shelter belts and a more diverse permanent sward might also reduce some of the drying out and dust issues as if conditions get hotter. Cover crop consideration plays an important part.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

James

Key Reference

Earlier wine-grape ripening driven by climatic warming and drying and management practices (Webb et. al)

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