Uncorking wildlife: Initiative launched to unite grape growers and wildlife

Local grape growers are being encouraged to welcome wildlife into their vineyards to help in the control of pests as well as boosting the ‘resilience and green credentials’ of their properties.

It is all part of a Wildlife for Wine program, launched in January by the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board in conjunction with the Clare Valley Wine & Grape Association.

Landscape officer Jamie Pook said Wildlife for Wine aimed to increase a property’s biodiversity, and through native plantings and nest boxes attract native insects, predatory birds and microbats to help viticulturists naturally control pests and reduce their reliance on chemicals.

Mr Pook said Clare Valley growers had embraced the concept of Wildlife for Wine when it was introduced to them at the launch event at Paulett Wines recently.

“Several vineyard growers, including Paulett Wines, have already committed to being involved, which is really encouraging,” Mr Pook said.

“One of the things they’ll get out of the program is an individualised Biodiversity Action Plan, which maps out the areas of their property best suited to revegetation, provides a planting guide with a list of recommended local native species and sets out a strategy for controlling pest plants and animals like rabbits, gorse, blackberries, olives and briars.

“We also conduct survey work to collect baseline data of which native species already exist on their property.

“Microbats are one beneficial species that are worth attracting to your vineyard. They eat half their body weight in bugs each night, so they are cheap, effective and natural pest controllers.

“We look at installing bat boxes to increase roosting sites for these tiny critters, which are about the size of a box of matches.”

Paulett Wines owner/director Matt Paulett installed the first of his property’s bat boxes last Friday, and said he welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the project.

“Wildlife for Wine will benefit our vineyards, improving the sustainability of the environment and by introducing some natural predators we will reduce chemical use throughout the Clare Valley vineyards,” he said.

“That will benefit not only us now, but also future generations and promote the longevity of our whole ecosystem.

“At Pauletts, we’ll put some bat boxes in our Bush DeVine Café garden where they’ll be visible to our staff and tourists and not only be a reminder of what we’re doing, but hopefully also create a talking point.

“If we can all do our little part for the environment it will benefit everyone.”

Wildlife for Wine is already having a positive impact in other wine regions, having started in the McLaren Vale area in 2018 and then rolled out in the Barossa during the past two years, with 18 growers involved.

Stonewell Cottages & Vineyards, Barossa Valley, owner/manager Evan Gobell is among those growers involved in the program and he shared some of his experiences at the Clare Valley Wildlife for Wine launch.

“The reality of the wine industry is we’re not food producers, we’re producing a luxury item, and because we’re taking from the environment, we have a social obligation to give back,” he said.

“That’s the main driver for me. We’ve spent the past seven years revegetating non-production areas of our property to fulfil that obligation to the environment.”

Before planting 800 species as part of the Wildlife for Wine program last year, the Gobell family planted about 5000 native species across their 42-hectare property near Seppeltsfield.

“The side benefit is you’re improving the biodiversity around your vineyards,” Mr Gobell said.

“Vineyards shouldn’t be a monoculture. You need the biodiversity to create a haven for native insects and birds, many of which are natural predators for common vineyard pests, such as rust mite, bud mite and light brown apple moth.

“Through our involvement in Wildlife for Wine, we had a native bird expert survey the birdlife on our property. He identified 45 species and 39 were native.

“Despite the proliferation of birdlife, we don’t have a significant problem with birds eating our grapes, because most of the species are insectivores.”

Mr Pook encouraged Clare Valley grape growers to get involved, saying no property was too big or too small to be part of Wildlife for Wine.

For more details about the project, contact Jamie Pook on 0439 928 430 or email jamie.pook@sa.gov.au