Mould threatens Australian vineyards

Thursday 24th Feb 2011 by theWeather Club

Australian vineyards are being forced to keep a very close watch over their vines in the lead-up to the annual harvest, due to an increased risk of mildew and disease brought about by unseasonably wet weather. Recent downpours and increased humidity across the southeast of the country have created ideal conditions for mildew spores, and the wine industry has warned that more rain could damage grapes in the lead-up to the harvest.

A single storm dumped 70mm of rain on the Barossa Valley causing flash flooding on Tuesday 15th Feb and was followed by heavy rain over subsequent days. Winemaker Ben Glaetzer said the timing of the wet weather was particularly concerning as grapes are scheduled to be picked in the next few weeks. Australian growers are not allowed to spray their crops in the 30 days before harvest, so having the weather create the ideal conditions for mould in this period is a real worry. Grape Barossa chairman Adrian Hoffmann told reporters there had been some isolated cases of powdery mildew in the Barossa, however vineyards in the states of Victoria, New South Wales and others in some inland areas had suffered greater problems. Riverland Wine Grape Growers Association executive director Chris Byrne said downy mildew from December rains had caused some internal rotting in bunches.

However, if you escape the mildew it is not all bad news. Hunter Valley winemaker Andrew Margan said his region was nearing the end of its vintage. While mildew had threatened his vines two months ago he had escaped real damage. And as for the effect of the extra rain, "It has increased the quality of our grapes," he said. This comes as some welcome news as wine exports are a significant source of income for the country what is still battling with the after effects of the recent flooding and cyclone.