Protecting our wine crop from sunburn is a case of slip, slop, slurp for researchers at Charles Sturt University.
The skin of wine grapes is sensitive to sun exposure just like that of humans, according to CSU academic Dr Joanna Gambetta.
“On a sensitive, fully mature Chardonnay grape, symptoms of sunburn can appear within five minutes once surface temperature on the berry reaches an ambient temperature of 40–43° C,” Dr Gambetta says.
“The browning, cracking and berry shrivelling means that yields are reduced and the fruit can be downgraded, causing significant economic losses to growers and wineries.”
Dr Gambetta is trialling strategies to combat the problem at vineyards in the NSW grape-growing region of Orange.
Wine makers normally remove some of the leaves from their vines to reduce the threat of disease, but Dr Gambetta thinks doing so at the wrong time may do more harm than good.
“My research aims to identify the optimum time for leaf removal to balance disease reduction and sunburn, as well as determining how altitude affects the degree of sunburn,” she says.
“The [goal] is to develop a set of guidelines for growers to reduce the impact of sunburn damage to their grapes.”
The results could help wine growers – and drinkers – all over Australia.
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