January 14, 2017.
Climate Ready recently partnered with The Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (MPVA) to discover more about the illustrious region and problems it faces. MPVA is an institution established in 1982, who over the last three decades has grown to consist of 150 grape owners, winemakers and suppliers to the renowned Mornington Peninsula wine industry. It is a non profit organisation managed solely by volunteers with the purpose to bring consideration and insight into the industry’s economic value, its social impacts and most importantly- the ultimate environmental impact on the landscape.
Tyson Lewis of the Peninsula Vinecare Pty Ltd highlighted certain mitigation actions taken in order to not only continue producing high quality wine, but to also maintain the natural order and beauty of an environment booming with tourism. What he may call “traditional agriculture”, has shifted in recent years, instead of herbicide eradication and monoculture, farmers are now trying to inject as much diversity as they can into the landscape.
Whether through mulching down to the micro level, introducing a host of preventative bacteria whilst maintaining water retention in the soil. So throughout dryer months they’re not just watering less, but also sustaining a biodynamic top soil retaining long term nutrition.
Or inter-row cropping, sowing various oats or peas- seasonally dependent- and without tillage. The aim is to diversify the minute insects to look after the balance and protection of the ecosystem.
Although the inter-row concept is in its real infancy at the moment, part of the challenge is to prove that the ultimate cost benefit of a short term investment will culminate into a long term gain for the various vineyards in the Peninsula.
While the purpose will always be to get the best quality fruit possible, it’s also about the longevity of that practice.
“If you’re not looking at it from a wholistic and long-term basis year to year, you’ll find issues down the track,” Mr Lewis said.
With Western Port Bay to the South, Bass Straight to the East and Port Phillip Bay to the North in combination with various slopes both toward the waters and inland, geographically the region produces a multitude of climates.
The Bureau of Meteorology extrapolates from only two data centres, limiting information for such an unpredictable terrain. Therefore the MPVA decided to invest in the installation of eight identical weather stations in order to be more specific to the eclectic atmospheric conditions the Peninsula faces.
Another learning obstacle acquired was the cultivation of leaf balance for shade and protection in extreme heat due to the diligence developed over a three day heatwave in early 2009 when 20-40 per cent of fruit burnt on the westerly side of growth purely from direct radiant heat.
Rootstock trials have also been put in place to better adapt to particular climate needs. This grafting provides the roots and stem support by obtaining and retaining the necessary minerals while resisting the relevant pests and diseases, such as Phylloxera.
The aphid-like insect feeds on the root system of grapevines causing direct damage, allowing infections by fungi and bacteria which leads to gradual decline in vine health and vigour.
Lastly the Water Project, supported by the Mornington Shire was developed as a local analysis program on the streams and dams frequently used to sustain the vineyards. Testing the general perimeters of water, the micro organisms it contained and the variant levels while corresponding with a university graduate in Melbourne; it was luckily discovered that no significant changes were found and would not be detrimental to the continued upkeep of landcare.
At the end of the day there is an abundance of preventative measures taken by the association specific to preparedness for climate change. The relationship with the Department of Land, Fire and Water has been extremely important within developing a fire ready practice.
Meeting two to three times a year with the government organisation to not only discuss the people’s risk of fire, but also the risk of their agriculture. Which at the base level, is many families livelihood in the Peninsula.
Ultimately the MPVA is there as a source rich of information for the community that will only continue to benefit from the land they choose to protect. Committed to educating on the biosecurity and actions taken to produce the wine we all love to drink, for years to come.