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Winegrowers get a taste for salinity

Improving grapevine tolerance to salinity using rootstock genetics is the challenge currently being undertaken by the South Burnett Wine Industry Association (SBWIA). The project is a collaboration between vineyard owners from the SBWIA, Queensland Department of Primary industries and Fisheries, the Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) and Burnett Catchment Care Association.

BMRG chief executive officer David Brown says the aim of the project is to uncover salinity management strategies which will increase productivity from salt-affected lands or utilise excess water in the landscape.

“BMRG is extremely excited about this project as it holds great potential for the wine industry not only in the South Burnett but in other grapegrowing regions of Australia,” Brown said. “There will be much to learn from the data once it has been collected and analysed.”

Salinity has been a land use issue in the South Burnett since the 1880s, and with the increase in grape plantings across the region for wine production, comes the need to address the nagging problem.

Wine Industry Development Officer Cameron Playsted of the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) says as part of the project, rootstock trials have the potential to increase the tolerance of the vines to salt in irrigation water.

“As a result of the soil and water monitoring in this project, we hope to better understand the effects of salinity on grapevines so we can learn to manage our vineyard systems in a sustainable way,” Playsted said.

“By introducing precision irrigation, we hope to increase the water-use efficiency of the vineyards and also aim to reduce unnecessary leaching of nutrients and water past the root-zone into the groundwater.”

According to the DPI&F, the use of rootstocks may enable previously unusable land and water to become more productive and has the potential to reduce the total water requirements of the vineyards

“It is hoped that this project will increase our capacity to manage the salt balance within the catchment and ensure sustainable and productive land use,” Playsted said.

Key aspects and timing of events for this project involve soil and water monitoring which has already begun, with another round of monitoring planned for next March.

The BMRG-funded project plans to introduce new salt-tolerant rootstocks to the region for greater tolerance to salt-affected marginal quality irrigation water. Plant sampling and analysis was conducted during flowering in mid to late November, and will be done again at harvest time in January.



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