We were proud to be nominated for Landcare Australia’s Innovation in Land Management Award earlier this year for our work in reducing chemicals by enticing hunter bugs to the vineyard through flowers.
The nomination process included a series of questions to answer which I have included below.
Provide information about the individual, group or organisation you are nominating
First planted in 1988, Koonara Wines was the first certified organic vineyard in Coonawarra.
Explain how the nominee has gone beyond usual practice and set a new standard in the application of an innovative farm and/or land management practice. Improved productivity, commercial outcomes and natural resource management should have been delivered through this practice.
We have created a unique form of ecosystem organics, bringing costs down by 30%.
Flowers we grow in the vineyard feed the 5 types of wasp that we have identified as having larvae which feeds on our two major pests, Vine Moth and Light Brown Apple Moth. Wattles that bloom in winter are planted nearby to provide a food source for the wasps all year round. Low flowers save mowing costs, and no need for weed killer. The roots of the flowers have added approximately 1.5% more organic material to the soil, adding the extra holding capacity of a half an olympic size swimming pool of water per hectare, improving water usage and plant stress. Analysing minerals missing from the plant and soil we create custom mineral mixes, keep the vines healthier, plus fertigation of compost teas, sillica and seaweed (plus many other additives) strengthens cell walls in the leaves, reducing the need for excessive copper/sulphur sprays. Most vineyards average 8 sprays, we average 3.5.
Give examples how the activities of the nominee have led to improved productivity outcomes on commercial scale operations. This can be demonstrated through any of the suggested methods outlined below:
- 3.1. Use of techniques not previously applied in the geographic area or to this type of primary production
- 3.2. Application of practices on a commercial scale that were previously only undertaken on a research scale, or
- 3.3. Development of techniques that have significantly improved productivity outcomes while improving natural resource management outcomes.
We were the first to trial Bacillus Subtilis in vineyards as a probiotic to control snail and millipede numbers in our vineyards, reducing millipedes by 99%, white snails by 95% and brown snails by 80%.
If mowing needs to be done to reduce frost, we mow only every second row and wait for the flowers to regrow before mowing.
We do intensive sheep grazing during the year for 1.5 days to shoot bash our vineyard, reducing costs.
Adding Tea compost to build microbiology into the soil so we can move away from foliar mineral mixes sprayed by many hours on a tractor to fertigation, saving many thousands of dollars.
Not spraying or mowing under vine allows some plants to stay there, as many wasps lay their eggs on the stems, creating a natural cycle.
Give examples of how the nominee has demonstrated leadership and encouraged the involvement of others in sustainable/innovative farming and/or land management practices that improved natural resource management and farm productivity outcomes (e.g. field demonstration days, radio interviews, blogs etc.)
Coonawarra has a committee with many of the major wineries on it. A main initiative which I am leading is committed to planting wattles and mid row flowers across the whole of the region.
We have put our whole organic vineyards practice on our website for everyone to use. We have had feedback from other wineries that they will start trialling some of our practices.
I have written blogs and done podcasts on how we can improve global warming, nutrition, and improving health. https://www.koonara.com/blog-2/
I brought eco-guru Graeme Sait to South Australia to meet with 6 politicians discussing a solution to meeting Australia’s Paris Treaty targets of 0.75% carbon back into the soil by subsidising compost and increasing no-till farming. Saskatchewan in Canada have been doing this successfully for 10 years, increasing farmers’ production by 7% and taking the equivalent of 22 million cars off the road
Describe any key challenges the nominee has faced and the strategies used to overcome them
Trial and error doing new practices means the potential of losing crops, which has happened twice. Tapping into new thinking for farming can be difficult when you are the first at doing anything.
In 25 words (2-3 sentences), please summarise your nomination, highlighting the key messages that best describe why this individual, group or organisation should be recognised for outstanding achievements to landcare.