Welcome to the national EcoVineyards program!
Winegrape growers throughout Australia are being supported in their actions to enhance soil health, establish ground covers and increase functional biodiversity in their vineyards through the National EcoVineyards program.
Through EcoVineyards, growers have access to new region-specific resources, regular events, the establishment of up to four demonstration sites in each participating wine region and access to Regional On-ground Coordinators (ROCs) to support growers. There are many learning opportunities and strong regional collaboration to help future proof fruit quality, production, and the resilience of Australian vineyards.
The national EcoVineyards program is funded by Wine Australia with levies from Australia’s grape growers and winemakers and matching funds from the Australian Government. The program is delivered by Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd with significant support from regional communities.
Following the national ‘open call’ in late 2022, we announced the new intake of EcoGrowers in each participating region in early 2023. You can read more about each EcoGrower here. They are establishing a diverse range of demonstration sites to provide practical insights to questions in the field around the topics of soil health, ground covers and functional biodiversity.
The National EcoVineyards Program aims to accelerate adoption and practice change outcomes specified in Wine Australia’s Strategic plan 2020-25 specifically:
- to increase the land area dedicated to enhancing functional biodiversity by 10 per cent, and
- to increase the use of vineyard cover crops and soil remediation practices by 10 per cent
The EcoVineyards team are work closely with wine growers to establish demonstration sites in nine wine regions throughout Australia including Margaret River, Hunter Valley, Orange, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Clare, Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and Riverland.
We are helping to increase the land area dedicated to enhancing functional biodiversity in and around vineyards including the use of multi-species ground cover plants and soil remediation practices.
We believe this can be achieved by focusing on 100% functional plant cover (and active root growth), 100% of the time where possible.
The EcoVineyards approach is based on science and evidence-based learning, an interactive approach which brings together both academic peer-reviewed research and the application of these insights via participatory action learning to accelerate the sharing of insights in real time.
Our model of participatory action learning is used to provide growers with the knowledge and tools to grow wine grapes with minimal intervention over the longer-term. We demonstrate a variety of regionally tailored practices to grow resilience, so agro-ecosystems can rebound more quickly after disruption including extreme weather events. By tapping into the sophistication and intelligence of nature we believe we can create better buffered production systems.
National EcoVineyards Program Manager and Agroecologist, Dr Mary Retallack explains, “Locally-adapted, diverse and functional ground cover plants have the capacity to provide benefits including biocontrol of insect pests, weed suppression, erosion control, improved soil structure, nutrient cycling, soil water retention, improved soil organic carbon and biological activity. By establishing supplementary flora in and around vineyards, we aim to help growers save time and resources by producing healthy grapes, with lower pest incidence while at the same time, enhancing the resilience and biodiversity of their vineyard.”
We are in the process of producing best practice management guides (BPMG) as a ‘living document’ for each topic area which will be updated throughout the course of the program. We furnish wine growers with tailored information and insights as they occur so they can make decisions that best suit their site.
The National EcoVineyards Program is a vehicle to engage wine growers and support the acceleration of practice change and adoption.
Retallack Viticulture has brought together more than 140 collaborating program partners with a common purpose. Each are committed to the program and bring a diversity of skills and networks to the program.
We can influence the practices of up to 6,251 wine growers and 2,361 winemakers throughout Australia who collectively manage 146,244 hectares of wine grapes.
We are in the process of producing a series of best practice management guides (BPMG) for soil health, , ground covers (including cover crops), and functional biodiversity as a ‘living document’ along with a dynamic offering of ways to disseminate learnings, practical knowledge and engage growers.
We are establishing up to 30 demonstration sites in 9 wine regions nationally and work with regional on-ground coordinators and a team of specialists to hold regular growing facing events both in person and online to share the benefits of these techniques and create meaningful change.
We have built measurable metrics into each aspect of the program.
We are excited to see growing support for environmental stewardship and agroecological practices.
We are grower focused and seek to provide excellent outcomes for stakeholders.
Why the EcoVineyards model? Does it work?
The following deliverables have been achieved since the existing EcoVineyards program began in July 2019 in South Australia and provides insights to the broad and diverse ways the EcoVineyards program has created significant impact in a relatively short period of time.
are working in collaboration with the common purpose of fostering environmental stewardship
have been established across Australia featuring a range of ecological practices and tailored EcoVineyards signage
have been installed across Australia (in collaboration with Seaford Rotary)
and 75 photo points have been designed, manufactured, and installed (in collaboration with Ocvitti Australia/Ocloc)
field days and networking events (twice per year over 4 years in 8 major wine regions)
at grower events over the last 4 years.
Native insectary plants
grasses, forbs, woody ground cover, shrubs and trees have been planted in the last 4 years.
have been completed
have been completed
12 articles that provide scientific research about native insectary plants and the arthropods found in association.
Native plant community lists
a summary for each participating region across Australia
‘Natural predators of vineyard insect pests’ written by Dr Mary Retallack, Retallack Viticulture
Fact sheets and videos
comprising 150 pages have been developed showcasing grower insights, biodiversity action plans (BAPs), native insectary plants and predators found in association, fire resistant native insectary plants, sedges on the edges, weedy species and soil health indicators for Australian vineyards (1 booklet, 2 posters and 6 videos)
EcoVineyards signage templates x 3 large and x 10 small format for native insectary plants and the arthropods found in association have been produced.
“I cannot speak more highly of the EcoVineyards project and team and the privilege I feel having been a part of it. I have learned so much more about the ecology and interactions of plants, insects and even soil and its microbiome since beginning with EcoVineyards.
It has encouraged me to read, learn and research more and be more inquisitive. After 35 years of being in the same job it has reintroduced enthusiasm back into it and I am excited about the future.”
Lulu Lunn, Tintookie Vineyards, Blewitt Springs
“Our EcoVineyards experience has been a thoroughly satisfying one, with our thriving planted area sitting proud, right in the midst of our vineyard. We are excited to watch the new plants grow, increasing the biodiversity of our site, and to watch new birds and insects that will be attracted to the area go to work.”
Andre Bondar, Bondar Wines and Ben Lacey, Lacey Viticulture, McLaren Vale
“The EcoVineyards program has made me realise how critical it is to use biodiversity as a tool to improve our vineyard management especially of current and emerging pest threats.”
Chris Brodie, Katnook Estate, Coonawarra
We wish to move beyond the conditioning that, “we often do more of the same and expect a different outcome” and draw from an ecology analogy to reset our aspirations:
- A mono-culture (or simple structure) is a fragile and poorly buffered system where problem weeds and insects often dominate, and regular intervention is required to produce a crop.
- Conversely, a poly-culture (or complex structure) with good functional biodiversity and soil health has greater resilience, can rebound more quickly after disruption (including extreme weather events), is able to self-regulate with less intervention, and growers can potentially save both time and resources.
We thrive on innovation and our aspiration is that wine growers delight in growing grapes, are profitable, inspired by the nature and feel a sense of reciprocity towards the land they farm.
The original EcoVineyards program was funded via the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants program with the Wine Grape Council of South Australia (WGCSA) and Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd working in partnership in South Australia from May 2019.
The National EcoVineyards Program is funded by Wine Australia with levies from Australia’s grape growers and winemakers and matching funds from the Australian Government.
The program is delivered by Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd with significant support from regional communities.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the past, present, and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Please direct all enquiries to the National EcoVineyards Program team via [email protected]
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to find out more @EcoVineyards