Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Vine Physiology

Research into the factors that impact on berry composition and yield including extreme temperatures, water stress, plant nutrition and carbohydrate partitioning. Our research also aims to define sustainable and efficient vineyard management practises and develop automated systems for yield prediction.

Selected Research Projects

Evaluation and demonstrating of new disease-resistant red and white grapevine selections in a cool and warm wine region in NSW

Team leader:  Dr Bruno Holzapfel (NSW DPI)

Team members: David Foster (NWGIC/DPI), Adrian Englefield (NSW DPI), Darren Fahey (NSW DPI), Dr John Blackman (NWGIC), Stephen Gottschall (NSW DPI)

Powdery and downy mildew infect both the reproductive and vegetative organs, reducing carbohydrate production and berry quality, with negative consequences for overall productivity. As a result, the wine industry has a heavy reliance on chemical fungicides to control and prevent outbreaks of these pathogens in the vineyard. The assessment of new variety selections is not only important to evaluate resistance against pathogen attack, but also to determine how they can handle abiotic stress such as heat events and drought, particularly in the warmer grape growing regions.

Breeding new grapevine cultivars with resistance to fungal pathogens presents an opportunity to substantially reduce the use of plant protection agents in vineyards, and therefore lower production costs and reduce the impact of viticulture on the environment. Resistance can be achieved by crossing suitable parent cultivars, screening for desired disease resistance and other beneficial traits, and then evaluation of superior selections and their wine making potential under field conditions for several years in different regions before release.

Reducing inputs will be a key driver of economic sustainability for the Australian wine industry. This project seeks to evaluate existing powdery and downy mildew resistant varieties that do not require sprays to identify elite individuals suitable to the Riverina and other regions in NSW that have traits that can also assist in reducing inputs in the vineyard. Improving profit by selling at a higher price point is the other key driver for industry economic sustainability.

Managing wine pH in a changing climate

Team Leader: Dr Suzy Rogiers

Team members: Dr Tintu Baby (Charles Sturt University), Dr Bruno Holzapfel (NSW DPI), Professor Leigh Schmidtke (Charles Sturt University), Professor Rob Walker (CSIRO), Darren Fahey (NSW DPI), Adrian Englefield (NSW DPI)

The acidity of our Australian wines has been decreasing over several decades and this has implications on its sensory properties and consumer acceptance. Low acidity also has repercussions on the stability of the wine, its fermentation characteristics and its colour. Increasing input costs to wine making via expensive tartaric acid additions requires alternative vineyard strategies that maximise wine acid levels, especially in warm climates. This project examines the climatic, soil and management factors that affect the berry sugar:acid balance.