Viticulture in Australia

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"Focusing on the viticulture industry in Australia, discuss the possible impacts of climate change on that sector or a portion of a sector, particularly addressing any relevant adaptation and mitigation measures. Are there any lessons that can be learned from comparisons between your chosen country and others experiencing similar issues?”

The widely acknowledged increasing of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is set to drastically change the world’s climate in the coming years. The impacts will be felt differently in different areas, but globally we should prepare for a 20% increase in months of drought, a 25% rise in very high and extreme fire danger days, increased storm surges and severe weather events, and a 1°C temperature rise by 2030 (Australian Government, 2011). These climatic changes are expected to leave a large impression on Australia’s viticulture industry by altering grape growing conditions. Although there will be significant efficiency, economic and social challenges to overcome, Australia’s viticulture industry should be able to survive with sufficient adaptation. Grapes are a very sensitive crop, and a slight change in growing conditions can alter growing cycles, yield and quality significantly (Anderson, Findlay, Fuentes, & Tyerman, 2008). This sensitivity is a serious concern for growers, as wine consumers are highly responsive to slight differences in scent, colour and taste. Wineries’ bottom lines will be affected through decreased yield and revenue, and increased costs of inputs pushing up production costs. Although there is little the viticulture industry can do on its own to mitigate climate change, social expectation provides an incentive to reduce emissions. Instead of focusing on alleviating the problem, it is more advantageous for wine growers to invest in adaptive measures to maintain yield and quality within the altered climate. Some countries, including New Zealand and Chile have already adjusted production to cope with its effects. Climate change is expected to change Australian growing conditions significantly. Being such a geographically diverse country, the extent to which each area is affected differs. Grape crops are highly sensitive to temperature change. Higher temperatures will bring the average harvesting season forward to a hotter month (CSIRO Australia, 2012). The shifted cycle means that buds will burst earlier and become more vulnerable to frost damage regardless of whether the frequency of frosts increases, though it is expected to do so. While temperatures may increase by 1°C one month, the effect is expected to multiply in the peak of summer, and may be closer to a 2-3°C rise in the new harvest month (Anderson, Findlay, Fuentes, & Tyerman, 2008). An increase in damaging pests and diseases is expected amid temperature increases (Anderson, Findlay, Fuentes, & Tyerman, 2008). For example, the Queensland Fruit Fly is tipped to flourish under the changed conditions and migrate southward into Victoria and SA (NSW Department of Primary Industries), and cases of powdery mildew and Light Brown Apple Moth will rise (Hayman, Leske, & Nidumolu, 2009). Each grape variety has different ideal growing conditions. Professor Anthony Shaw of Brock University says higher temperatures bring longer growing seasons to some varieties, such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, whilst reaping harm on other varieties including Riesling and Pinot Noir (Shaw, 2012). For all varieties, however, higher temperatures will mean an earlier harvest season, higher alcohol content and altered taste (Anderson, Findlay, Fuentes, & Tyerman, 2008) & (NSW Department of Primary Industries). While the effects of temperature rise are important and need to be prepared for, the main challenge for maintaining yield will come in the form of managing the increases in extreme weather events such as droughts, frosts, wind, bushfires and heatwaves. These events have to potential to destroy entire vintages....
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