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King Valley Vignerons partners in smoke affect research

King Valley Vignerons, together with the Department of Primary Industry (DPI), Department of Sustainability and the Environment (DSE) and Environment Protection Authority are conducting research into the effect of smoke on grapes vines and grapes. King Valley Wine Region was severely affected by the smoke from the wild fires in the Alpine National Park in 2003 and 2006/07 and is observing with great interest the fuel reduction burns currently being conducted by DSE.

It is clear from previous experiences that severe intensity of smoke on vines results in fruit being affected, but there are a lot of unknown issues and it is these that are the focus of the current research. It has been determined that grapes do not absorb the smoke compounds directly. The chemicals are absorbed by the leaves and translocated to the berries. Part of the current research is focussing on this translocation process, as well as other issues such as the affects of varying levels of smoke intensity and hours of contact.

A number of King Valley growers have left significant quantities of grapes on vines so that sampling can be done over the next few weeks following the fuel reduction burns currently being conducted. A caravan containing sophisticated monitoring equipment has been provided by the EPA to measure the intensity and content of the smoke being produced. The results of this monitoring, together with berry, leaf and cane sampling and small lot wine making will all be studied by Dr Mark Downey of DPI.

Growers and DSE will be waiting eagerly for the results of the research. King Valley growers are supporters of DSE’s fuel reduction program, but certainly don’t want there to be any detrimental effects on their grapes. The difficulty is that DSE has a very small window of opportunity in which to conduct these control burns, and this is March and April, when the most grapes are almost ready for harvest. The results of this research will certainly help with planning of burns for the future.

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