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Ongoing project

Dried grape production innovation and adoption program 2018-2021 (DG17001)

Key research provider: Dried Fruits Australia

What’s it all about?

Beginning in 2018 to carry on from earlier investment Dried grape industry development project stage 2 (DG13001) this program is tasked with helping dried grape producers access and share leading and emerging research and knowledge on production techniques to grow skills, improve productivity and keep quality high.

Program activities include workshops, seminars, field walks and focus groups for growers. These events typically run between April and January each season and are hosted on growers’ properties in the Sunraysia, Riverland and Swan Hill regions, plus at universities and research institutes.

The program is also tasked with delivering a range of learning materials through the Dried Fruits Australia online learning platform, and has a benchmarking component as well. This work will provide industry with benchmarks of production per hectare, production practices, prices received and input costs, and will track overall industry productivity growth.

The team has delivered more outreach and extension events since the last update including…

  • Growers attended an event at Red Cliffs on security and biosecurity, with police giving advice on keeping properties secure and Dr Amanda Kobelt from Agriculture Victoria discussing the most significant biosecurity threats to the industry and what growers can do if they identify a new pest they are concerned about.

  • In November, a number of events were held to show growers how to use sprayers effectively, how to schedule irrigation, and strategies that can be beneficial to particular dried grape varieties.

  • In December, growers were able to take a sticky beak tour of Agriculture Victoria, Gardner’s, Hunt’s and Treeby’s properties.

  • Forty-six people attended the Dried Fruits Australia (DFA) Growers’ Forum in Mildura. The program included industry presentations from DFA, each of the major processors, National Farmers Federation and Plant Health Australia. There were also presentations from University of Adelaide on vineyard cooling and CSIRO on the latest rootstocks and varieties.

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Initial events in the program have included…

  • A look at maintaining grape quality through the dehydration process, with a field day held in mid-April in Merbein. Watch the video capturing most of the event here (36 mins).

  • Ensuring awareness of quality parameters for dried grapes in meeting market demand, with a processing line visit at Sunbeam’s facility in Irymple in June. This was followed by a seminar on understanding legal and business requirements and reporting when engaging seasonal harvest labour.

  • A winter pruning workshop, held in late June and involving experts from across the research world and industry, specialising in robotics, mechanics and vineyard management. The goal was to formulate research strategies to assist in reducing the inputs involved in vine pruning for dried grapes during winter, with pruning currently accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the cost of producing dried fruit. Watch this video about pruning vines on swingarm trellis from the day (32 mins), and look for information and outcomes from the workshop to be shared in industry channels, including The Vine.

Upcoming events delivered through the program will address topics including farm security, business growth, spray equipment efficiency, irrigation strategies and more. Look for details in industry channels as they become available, or contact Dried Fruits Australia field officer Stuart Putland at projects@driedfruitsaustralia.org.au or on 03 5023 5174.

Another recent activity of the program has been the establishment of benchmarking studies with growers. At the time of writing, work had been set up with seven growers across 10 properties in the Mildura-Wentworth region, with the goal of gaining a greater understanding of key production systems based on swing arm trellis with two new dried grape varieties – Sunmuscat and Sunglo. For an overview of the benchmarking work, see p11 of this edition of The Vine.