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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 continued to deliver outreach and extension events, including…

  • A series of online workshops were held during 2020, due to restrictions relating to COVID-19, however, there were occasional opportunities for on-farm workshops to be held.
  • A Research and Development Forum was held in January 2021 to determine and prioritise research areas for the dried grape industry. Hort Innovation will be using this information to inform the new Dried Grape Strategic Investment Plan 2022-2026.
  • Benchmarking work continues as part of the IDO project delivery and information on this has been presented to growers via the online Annual Growers Forum and in the vine magazine. Industry statistics continue to be maintained in terms of varieties, hectares, exports and imports.

The project team report progress in the following areas:

  • Online workshops have been developed featuring video presentations on minimal pruning and irrigation management (Irrisat). Both of these have been uploaded to the Dried Fruits Australia YouTube channel.
  • Research into increased machinery and automation practices on farm is being undertaken by La Trobe University, Mallee Region Innovation Centre, DFA and Hort Innovation.
  • Producer forums and field walks will be facilitated as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.
  • The best practice guide is being updated with the input of researchers, producers, and processors.
  • Communication of latest information will continue to be shared in The Vine magazine and the fortnightly Currant News.


The annual workplan for 2020 has been determined with careful consideration of the social distancing rules related to COVID-19. These unusual circumstances have meant a complete review of the way in which this program will be delivered over the course of this year.

Evaluation of the previous year’s workplan has been undertaken along with extensive consultation with dried grape producers and processors to determine requirements. Areas that will be covered include the current benchmarking study, biosecurity management, pruning, vine performance, and the importance of water management and irrigation.

Information, meetings, and presentations will be delivered through online video conferences, email, and news articles.  Tours and farm visits will proceed if possible subject to government guidelines. 

Event and project information will continue to be shared in The Vine magazine and the fortnightly Currant News.


You can read a summary of the 2020 events program here.

Since July 2019, seven technology transfer events were held for growers which shared a range of key research and development information about benchmarking, the Sunglo variety, irrigation, cordon management, and an industry tour to learn more about viticultural research.

  • At the Pruning ‘Tune Up’ 34 people viewed a minimal pruning demonstration, discussed vine nutrition and operational
  • In July, several industry representatives toured NSW prune farms, wine grape research and irrigation operations to learn more about new technologies and research developments across the sector
  • 20 growers attended an irrigation and soils workshop and benchmarking vineyard walk in May, with the program covering a 2019–20 season allocation outlook, planning decisions for low water allocation seasons, and current water market trends
  • A farm walk with 10 growers looked at cordon bunch spraying equipment in operation in September with a follow up visit in October to see outcomes
  • The Dried Fruit Association Member Forum was held in October with 25 growers attending, including key presentations from regional water authorities on the status of water supply across the region, Sunrise mapping on documenting the size of the dried grape industry, and Sunraysia TAFE on their Smart Farm project and how it can link in with the DFA/HIA programs.
  • 22 growers attended a Sunglow variety field day across five properties, looking at how to successfully grow this variety. Participants also heard from plant pathologist Peter Magarey about a new disease modelling service that will soon be made available to the dried grape industry.

The project team are also coordinating the industry’s Certificate III Production Horticulture (Dried Fruit). The course has been advertised in Currant News with enrolments received.

Event and project information will continue to be shared in The Vine magazine and the fortnightly Currant News.


Two sessions from the DFA Member Forum in October 2019 can be viewed here:

In the first half of 2019, the project team has:

  • Held several Tech Transfer events covering drying oil application systems, harvest systems, pests and disease management, irrigation and soils, were run across several locations with more than 70 growers attending. Further events are planned for the remainder of the year.
  • Continued benchmarking collection and analysis to identify performance in production, with this information to be shared with dried grape growers to assist with yield performance.
  • Further developed research into winter pruning with researchers from The University of Melbourne and La Trobe University via the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre, based in Mildura.

Event and project information will continue to be shared in The Vine magazine and the fortnightly Currant News.


Watch video recordings of the Tech Transfer events.

Find out more about the 2019 events program on page 11 of The Vine, Apr-Jun 2019 edition.

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.


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 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.