Clones, rootstocks, weeds and irrigation on the Riverland agenda


An increased number of clones will be evaluated this year, as part of an extended research project that aims to identify new clones most suited to the Riverland environment and growing conditions.

Riverland Wine Executive Officer Chris Byrne said the increase in numbers (from 32 to 57) will speed up the project timeline and fast-track the outcomes not just for the Riverland but the broader Australian wine industry.

“Being able to assess all 57 clones in the same vintage will allow us to remove seasonal variations and that will give us a clearer picture of the science and results.”

The project is focused on clones of widely planted varieties across the region – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz – and is being undertaken at the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee and Oxford Landing nurseries (Monash and Qualco respectively).

Byrne said the project has also seen small-lot wines produced, with comparisons made to industry-standard clones.

Rootstock research

Running parallel with the clone evaluation is an ongoing rootstock research project also being undertaken by the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee.

Byrne said both projects, funded through the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Regional Program, continue to generate interest not just in the Riverland but across Australia.

“In recent years, Riverland producers have been recognised as champions of alternative varieties.  While that’s exciting, it’s critical that the rootstock project’s core focus is maintained on those varieties that will continue to generate the majority of economic activity for the region and to ensure we’re doing everything reasonable to be the preferred, most competitive production hub for the industry’s key varieties.

“There’s little doubt that continuous improvement in the area of water-use efficiency is now a standard component of our viticultural technical work and these trials, in conjunction with the clonal evaluations, will enable us to identify those combinations of rootstocks and clones that will produce wine fit-for-purpose and also stand the test of time and sustainability.

“I recently attended a workshop by CSIRO’s Peter Clingeleffer where he showed the enormous variation in wines he’s made from the same clone on four different rootstocks. There were stunning differences in the wines.  It reinforced the critical role rootstocks have.  These two projects happening in the Riverland together will have significant outcomes for the industry at large.”

Weed management

Also ongoing this year is work to identify suitable management and treatment for hard-to-kill weeds, in particular the increasingly problematic Gazania.

“We’ve learnt the hard way just how adaptable and resilient gazanias can be.  The plant effectively shuts down in dry periods making it almost impossible to control with herbicides,” Byrne said.

“It must be treated when it’s growing healthily so we’ve set up an irrigated trial patch where we can trial a range of herbicide treatments and management methods.”

The regional association will also continue to advocate for the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Board to have the weed declared but this can’t happen until there is a tried and tested eradication program that land owners and local government authorities can implement.

“At the moment, Gazania control is quite difficult, but the Riverland Viti Tech group, together with partners PIRSA and Elders are confident that there’ll soon be an effective control method.”

Irrigation maintenance

An irrigation maintenance workshop is also on the Riverland agenda, post-vintage, to help growers ensure they’re getting the best value out of their irrigation.

“The workshop will look at the value and importance of jobs such as cleaning filters, flushing pipes and checking pressures in irrigation lines and we’ll also use the opportunity to update a fact sheet for growers on the topic.

“These sorts of jobs are easy ones to put off or forget but the simplest of acts, such as testing dripper emitter rates at different points across patches can be very revealing and helpful in saving costs, and maintaining vine health and production rates.

“We’ll have representatives of the NRM Board at the theory workshop and field walk – so we’ll draw on their experiences as well.”

Riverland’s clone evaluation project will look at 57 clones this year, in particular clones from the core regional varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.
Riverland’s clone evaluation project will look at 57 clones this year, in particular clones from the core regional varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.