Transcript of the future climate and insights for the wine industry – new climate atlas webinar

Heather Field:

Our webinar today is on future climate insights for the wine industry: a new wine climate atlas. In this webinar, doctor Rebecca Harris will present the recently released Australian Wine Future: A Wine Climate Atlas, which is a collaborative industry effort which showcases how Victoria's wine region climates have changed and what is expected in coming decades.

Heather Field:

We'll also hear briefly from Sharon Harvey from Wine Australia, following Rebecca's presentation, to give us a Wine Australia perspective on how the atlas has been received.

Heather Field:

We're also very lucky today to have a great industry panel as part of our webinar. Following the presentations I will invite our other panel members, Mardi Longbottom, who is a manager viticulture and sustainability from Australian Wine Research Institute, and Rob Sutherland, who is a viticulturist and vineyard manager from De Bortoli Wines. And along with Rebecca and Sharon, they will also join me in the panel discussion.

Heather Field:

So first up we have Rebecca Harris. Doctor Rebecca Harris is a senior lecturer in climatology, and director of the Climate Futures team at the University of Tasmania, and a lead author on the IPCC sixth assessment report. Her research integrates climate signs with ecological and social research to contribute to management decisions that are necessary to adapt to climate change impacts. Rebecca was the lead researcher on the project, Australian Wine Future: Adapting To A Short Climate Variability and Long Term Climate Change, which was funded by Wine Australia to develop tools for Australia's grape growers to manage emerging weather and climate risks.

Heather Field:

So I'll now hand over to Rebecca and she'll be sharing the wine atlas for us and what was involved, and focus on some Victorian regional examples. Over to you-

Rebecca Harris:

Thanks very much, Heather, and thanks to everyone for coming. As Heather said, I am going to focus on the Victorian vineyards, wine region, so hopefully it will be of use to you. And I think it's also very relevant to all other sectors other than wine, and hopefully you'll see the benefit of that as well.

Rebecca Harris:

So the wine sector, as with all sectors, is going to be facing challenges as climate change continues. Temperature increases of about 3.7 degrees Celsius relative to 1961 to 1990 are projected to occur by the end of the century under the high emission scenario, the RCP8.5. And that's the scenario that we're currently tracking slightly above, unfortunately.

Rebecca Harris:

So in recognition of this, Wine Australia funded a research project, as Heather said, to consider the impacts of variability and long term climate trends on the wine industry, and that was the Australia's Wine Future project, which went from 2016 to 2020 by the time we finished. And it was a collaborative research project that brought together 15 researchers from a range of disciplines, including climate modelers, climate scientists, viticulturists and people with expertise in climate adaptation.

Rebecca Harris:

So the project aimed to provide Australia-wide climate information that was tailored for the wine sector, and at a fine resolution so that the data and the information was fine enough to actually inform targeted adaptation responses. And the focus was on changes to the timing and the length of the growing and harvest season, and the frequency of extremes such as heat waves and droughts. Obviously that's information that's vital for planning to reduce the impacts of climate change and climate variability.

Rebecca Harris:

So we focused on trying to understand the regional differences across Australia, because obviously there are a lot of them, and how they might actually affect appropriate adaptation responses going forwards. The main legacy of that research project was the wine atlas, which you can see the front page here, which aimed to give that climate information in an accessible and digestible format to grape growers and wine makers so that they could plan for the short, medium, and longer term time horizons. And that's what I am going to take you through today fairly quickly, unfortunately. There's a lot in it. It's an almost 400 page document, so I'm not going to be able to take you through all of it. But it's freely available so that you can have a look yourselves.

Rebecca Harris:

For every wine region across the country there's a separate section which describes changes to temperature, heat accumulation, extreme heat and cold, rainfall and aridity. It talks about the changes that we've already seen, which is a really important thing, I think, because it makes that point that climate change is no longer an issue of the future that we can put aside and worry about later. We're seeing the changes right now. And then also summaries of how those variables are going to change, or are expected to change, in the models going into the future.

Rebecca Harris:

The indices we chose after quite extensive consultation with people in the industry so that we were choosing indices that are important to them. So we haven't got time to talk about all of them, but there's a long list of the indices that you'll find summarized in the atlas. The list includes the obvious ones, covering temperature and rainfall with the focus on the growing season, and separating the year out into the growing season and then the non growing season, growing degree days of heat accumulation, we've got annual, monthly, and seasonal summaries of each of those industries, and we've also got indices that are attempting to summarize extremes, like heat wave duration and intensity and the impact of heat waves on humans, and also cold extremes.

Rebecca Harris:

So obviously a lot of these indices are totally relevant to a wide range of sectors and other agricultural sectors, and tailored indices could similarly be calculated for all other sectors. So as you can imagine, trying to cover all of these indices the atlas is unavoidably, and probably pretty unapologetically, a technical document. But we've tried to make it usable to a wide range of people, so we've got quite an extensive How To Use The Atlas guide. There's a lot of background information on how the climate models work, the methods that were used to calculate the indices. And then for those who might be slightly less interested in the technical details, we've also included an infographics page which gives a summary of the projected changes for each of the wine regions.

Rebecca Harris:

But before we have a look into the atlas, it's really important that we make the distinction or make the point that climate projections are not predictions of future conditions. Rather, they're descriptions of possible future climates under different emission scenarios, and those scenarios are the things that are actually the greatest source of uncertainty: what humans will actually do in terms of our emissions.

Rebecca Harris:

So this diagram is a spaghetti diagram that you see a lot of the time, where you can see the different emission scenarios. This is the RCP8.5, which we're currently following, and then different scenarios that reflect different international policy decisions. So the RCP is a future where we don't curb our emissions and carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rapidly rise. and then we have other RCP's where we might hopefully choose to do something about our global emissions and start to get those carbon dioxide concentrations dropping.

Rebecca Harris:

So the data that we present in the atlas is based on the RCP8.5, and we chose that for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as I said, that's the one that we are currently tracking above. So for the next few decades that is the future that we'll be dealing with. And actually, as you can see here in this diagram, the emission scenarios don't actually start to diverge properly, incorporating the climate model variability, until around 2050. So for the next few decades it's not all that important which emission scenario you base your decisions on.

Rebecca Harris:

Another thing that's really worth thinking about is that there is a lag in the system where carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans and then there's a delay before it's released to the atmosphere. So almost half of the carbon dioxide that humans have produced over the last two centuries has been absorbed by the oceans. And so that means that even if we were to stop all greenhouse gas emissions today, there will still be a source of greenhouse gasses for decades to come, and temperatures are expected to keep rising for about 100 or 200 years, even if we stopped now. This is what's referred to as committed warming and that's why with know that we are going to have to adapt to some level of climate change in the future, regardless of what emission scenario we follow from now on.

Rebecca Harris:

So then within that scenario we also consider a range of different climate models. In the atlas we've summarized six different global climate models that represent a range of what's considered to be plausible in the climate models. So we've got a hot, dry model, which is ACCESS, and then we range down through to the cool, wetter future in these two different models here.

Rebecca Harris:

But when we say that a model is wet or dry, it's still all relative. Even the models with the lowest warming and the most rainfall in them suggest that we can expect warming more than two degrees over most of Australia by the end of the century, and little change in annual precipitation. Although there is drying in southwest and western Australia. So to account for that range in the climate models, we've shown in the atlas the mean of those models and the range.

Rebecca Harris:

I thought I'd just show you a diagram to talk about what a climate model actually is. I mean, there's sort of numerical representations of the climate system and it's based on the known physical and chemical properties of the atmosphere and the oceans and the land and how they interact. But some people are often surprised to see just how complex they really are, so I always quite like to show this.

Rebecca Harris:

This is an example based on soil moisture. So you can see that they're very dynamic beasts, these climate models, and they're very complicated. The regional climate model that use gives us a spatial resolution of between five and 10 kilometers, has about 20 vertical layers in the atmosphere, and it gives us a huge amount of data.

Rebecca Harris:

So here I've got showing two of those 27 of so atmospheric cloud layers, and this is showing us one hour time steps. So the soil moisture, if you can see that on the ground, you can see that it's responding to the weather that the region is experiencing in the model, and that's driven by the regional climate processes. So it's not just a statistical model, it's one that captures what's going on. So you can see that there's a frontal system, goes across the system like now. You can see that the water ways have filled up, soil moisture has gone up, increased, and then as the frontal system passes the soil moisture then dries out.

Rebecca Harris:

The atlas starts by talking about what climate change we've already experienced, and we've visualized it from the current period, which is the 1997 to 2017 period, taking away the historical period of 1961 to 1990. Up the top here we've got mean growing season temperature where you can see that there's already been significant warming across the country; up to about 0.8 degrees Celsius in some regions, and down to about 0.4 degrees Celsius in some of the areas that have more of a maritime climate, such as down here in southwestern, western Australia and Tasmania.

Rebecca Harris:

These maps are really good, as I said, because it really shows that we are experiencing climate change already. But it's also really good to see that variability across the country. Australia's a really big place, so we want to avoid those blanket, black and white conversations about the change that everyone's experiencing, because we always know that each of our regions is a little bit different to the others.

Rebecca Harris:

Down the bottom we've got growing season rainfall. Again, that change between the historical period and that current period. And you can see that rainfall's a little bit more variable than temperature in the change that we've already had, with some areas experiencing drying trends and some having actually increased in rainfall. And again, this is influenced by those regional climate drivers, but it's also because rainfall is obviously naturally very variable across the country. And the climate change signal's not really actually expected to become clear or emerge from that background variability for another decade or so.

Rebecca Harris:

Okay. So what changes can we expect in the future? For each of the wine regions we present changes in the trend, showing variability and changes to the extremes of each of the indices. So I'm only going to show a small portion of what's in the atlas, concentrating mainly on temperature and rainfall. And so here I've got a couple of examples of the infographics that start the regional sections. And so, just to show that regional variability again, we've got Swan Hill, obviously, which is one of the hotter and drier regions of the country, and Henty, which is one of the cooler and wetter regions in Victoria.

Rebecca Harris:

Each of these panels then shows the mean change for the six models, for growing season temperature on the left here, and then growing season rainfall on the right and top and bottom there for Henty, because it's a different shaped region.

Rebecca Harris:

So you can see that as we go further into the future, the warm regions, Swan Hill, goes from mean growing season temperature of about 20 degrees to about 24 degrees by the end of the century, which is a pretty substantial increase. And Henty goes from an average of about 16 degrees up to more than 19 degrees. 20 degrees actually, more than 20 degrees, in the hotter parts of the Henty region. So the infographic gives the average over the whole region and then you can see that variability across the region in these maps as well.

Rebecca Harris:

This slide shows the main temperature page, or some of the main temperature page, which is the mean growing season temperature. I've got this for the Yarra Valley here, and you can see the blue dots are the values from all of the climate models, so it gives us an idea of the range or the spread in our projections. So we've got every year from 1961 to the end of the century, and you can see, as you'd expect, a steady increase in temperature.

Rebecca Harris:

The horizontal bars here we've got represent the current conditions for each of these regions. And it's just one way that we can help identify future analog regions, which I'm going to talk a little bit further on in the talk. But analog regions help us understand what some of those potential management options might be as we move into the future. So, for example, you can see here a wet part of the Yarra Valley. The blue line shows a wettish region in the Yarra Valley, and the red line shows a warmer part of that region. And you can see that if on average by that 2020 we're sort of experiencing conditions similar to Yarra Valley, but as we go forward into the future, by the end of the century the conditions in the Yarra Valley may be much more like that that is currently experienced in the Swan District.

Rebecca Harris:

These colored bars represent the projected global temperature increase expected into the future. So this is an attempt to pull away from the emission scenario. And so, if you don't look at it in terms of the time series but you just want to think about what might happen if we go to a two degree warmer world, then this is the area of the graph that you'd be looking at to get your values, regardless of when we approach that global mean temperature. And equally, if we were to slow down our emissions, we can have a look here at the one degree area in terms of trying to think about what that means disassociated from the time axis.

Rebecca Harris:

Down the bottom here we've got probability distribution functions, or PDFs, and these are really useful to show the spread of values in any population of values. So by looking at these curves we can understand something about the mean value. This is the most common value here at the peak, and we can also see the extreme values. So the area under that curve equals one, so we can use those to have a look at the change as we go forwards. In this graph and in all of the subsequent graphs, black is current period and then we go forward towards the end of the century in 20 year time periods. So you can see here that the growing season temperature substantially shifts from the mean in the current period going forwards to the end of the century. And again, we have these grayed out regions for analog comparison, so you can see that we're moving more towards the distribution that's currently experienced in Geograph, but the Yarra Valley will always have a broader spread of growing season temperature values.

Rebecca Harris:

This slide shows the cumulative growing degree days across the growing season, and we can see the changes in relation to some threshold values of growing degree days that we could relate to the maturity requirements or harvest dates of different grape varieties. So as we go forwards in time, again the black represents more current time going forward into the future. You can see that for the Yarra Valley, again, at the moment it takes about till December or so, mid December, to reach 1,000 growing degree days. But by late century that's expected to be reached in about early November. So a difference of almost actually six weeks. And obviously this does have pretty important implications for harvest dates as climate change continues.

Rebecca Harris:

This shows quite similar plots for rainfall. We've got those time series for both growing season and non growing season, and you can see again the ups and downs. You can see that of course we have wet years and we have dry years, but as we go forwards, in this instance, in the Alpine Valleys, there's very little trend in rainfall, although we tend to get fewer of those very wet years. But there's a very slight trend towards drying in the non growing season.

Rebecca Harris:

We also have these violin plots, which are sort of like PDFs but on their sides. They give us an idea of the mean and the spread in either direction, and we've got that to show the spread of values for each month in the year. And again, with those gray shadows, that's relating to the current conditions. So you can see that there are changes as we go forwards in rainfall in July and August, but not so much change in March.

Rebecca Harris:

So extreme heat is obviously really important, and here we've got the time series of the number of days per year where temperature exceeds these thresholds of more than 30 degrees, 35, 40, and 45 degrees. And obviously again you can see that general increase in frequency as the climate warms until we have almost about a third of the year, actually, when temperatures exceed 30 degrees in King Valley by the end of the century.

Rebecca Harris:

On the right here we've got another way of thinking about heat, which is in relation to human heat stress, which is defined as being days when you've got a maximum temperature greater than 30 degrees and a daily minimum humidity of more than 60 degrees. And you can see that we might expect about 10 days a year in King Valley where there might be stressful conditions for humans, and that can jump up to about 15 days a year in a very hot year. But as we go forwards we can expect more than double that amount, so up to about 40 days on average and up to about 50 days a year during a hot year. And obviously that's a pretty important thing to know if you've got people outside picking.

Rebecca Harris:

In comparison though, if you look at somewhere like the Grampians which is a lot less humid, the risk of severe heat stress to humans is much lower. You'd only expect it on 10 or 20 days a year, even towards the end of the century.

Rebecca Harris:

So the final graph shows the trajectory of change across all of the regions in relation to each other, and the axis I've got here are aridity on the X axis and the mean growing season temperature on the Y axis. So aridity is an index that incorporates the increase in evaporation that you're going to expect as the climate continues to warm. And so, what you can see is that actually, regardless of what happens to precipitation, you will always have a warming and a drying trend across the country.

Rebecca Harris:

So the circles indicate the current position of each region within this temperature and aridity envelope, with the tails showing the climate change that we've already experienced since the historical period and then going forward in these 20 year steps, going towards the end of the century at 2100. So I've got a couple of Victorian regions here. I've got the Alpine Valley. Again, you can see that that's that wetter, cooler part of the country, and it's experienced a little bit of warming and you can see as we go forwards that it's expected to have a climate that is currently more similar to the Shoalhaven coast region. And if we look at the Macedon Ranges we can see it's had quite a lot of drying, and in the next 20 years we might be expecting climate similar to what's currently found in Mt. Gambier. But then it goes through a period similar to the Great Southern and Adelaide Hills regions, until by the end of the century we're looking a lot more like the Macedon Ranges. Oh sorry, McLaren Vale. So by the end of the century, Macedon Ranges is going to be starting to look a lot more like McLaren Vale.

Rebecca Harris:

And so, I think this is a really useful way of looking at change, because it enables us to look at other regions that might already experience those particular climate conditions or challenges that you could expect to see emerging in your region, other region, as we go into the future. And so, that means that hopefully we can transfer knowledge from there to another region that might be becoming more similar in the future. And obviously that means we've got an opportunity to share knowledge, the transfer grape and vineyard management techniques from regions that are currently hotter and drier to try and maintain quality and yield into the future.

Rebecca Harris:

In contrast, though, if we have a look at Swan Hill and the other regions that are already very hot and dry, they don't have any analog regions within Australia. So we'll need to look overseas to find solutions to the challenges of growing grapes as climate change continues.

Rebecca Harris:

So just to sort of wrap up so that we've got a bit of time to talk about what all of this means, the take home messages. There are three of them. Basically we know that change is already occurring and those changes are projected to continue. There are several trends that are found consistently across Australia. All of the regions are expected to get hotter and drier, with more intense heat waves in large parts of the country. Changes in rainfall are a bit more variable, but we do know that we can expect changes in seasonality of rainfall, with longer periods of dry conditions and more intense rainfall.

Rebecca Harris:

So all of these changes do have really widespread implications for the wine industry and for all agricultural sectors, and actually all parts of our society really. And we are going to need to adapt and we're going to need to identify adaptation options for the short term, the medium term, and the very long term time horizons. So a really important starting point for that is good climate information, which is tailored for particular needs or particular industries, and as fine a resolution as is possible. And really, that's the way that we can start developing a plan for the future.

Rebecca Harris:

So I would like to just really quickly thank our research partners. It was the CSIRO team led by Marcus Thatcher who did the downscaling of the climate models, Peter Hayman, Dane Thomas, and Paul Petrie from SARDI worked with us to develop the climate indices for the atlas and also led the adaptation component of the larger research project. And finally, it's really important to thank the wine growers around the country that gave us help and feedback, which was really valuable. In particular the people from the Hunter Valley, Grampians, Tasmania, Riverland, Barossa, and the Margaret River, which were our focus case regions.

Rebecca Harris:

So that's it from me. Thanks.

Heather Field:

Fantastic. Thanks, Rebecca. Yeah, what a great project and a great tool. Definitely showing how the wine industry is leading the way on this topic. And very important for wine and grape growers for planning for the higher temperatures and changes in rainfall. And I must say, I really do like that climate analog map that you showed near the end there. Great way of explaining the future scenarios. So thank you for your presentation.

Heather Field:

I'm now going to hand over to Doctor Sharon Harvey who's with Wine Australia, and Sharon is going to just provide a short few comments on the Wine Australia's perspective on how the atlas has been received.

Sharon Harvey:

Thanks, Heather. And thanks, Bec, fro another fantastic presentation on the wine atlas. Just a few words about what happened after. So the project finished up towards the end of last year, and we were delighted with how it went. I mean, I think Bec would agree, it was a little bit of a leap in the beginning. We had not worked with climatologists before and they had not worked with an agricultural sector. And we pushed the UTAS and the SARDI proposals together to make one project. So as Bec said, the SARDI team brought the viticultural side of things.

Sharon Harvey:

So having generated this fantastic product, we then had to think carefully about the messaging. Obviously we didn't want to arm our overseas competitors with ammunition to point to how hot and dry Australia was going to get and make extrapolations to grape and wine quality, et cetera. So we adopted at staged approach to the release, so the atlas wasn't actually released until June of this year, following working through that process and also avoiding the terrible bush fires that happened last summer, which drove a lot of rhetoric around climate change. And then of course there was COVID.

Sharon Harvey:

So we reached out to the regions initially and gave them a heads up as to what to expect; what was coming out and what the primary take homes were for the atlas, certain sections of media, and then ABC Landline ran a segment on the climate atlas and following that we released it to the general public with a media release. And it attracted a lot of attention, most of which was very positive, and hopefully you've been able to see today the product that we've got and how it can be useful to the sector. Since then we generated a series of webinars that are tailored to each of 11 what we call regional clusters of Australian wine regions, including for greater Victoria actually. And those webinars are available on the Wine Australia website if you wanted to go and have a look at a webinar that explains the climate atlas in a bit of a deeper dive for a particular region. And you can also download the wine atlas itself from the Wine Australia website and via the Landline segment if you wish to.

Sharon Harvey:

So that's kind of what's happened since, and I'll finish up there.

Heather Field:

Great. Thanks, Sharon. Yeah, terrific just to get that perspective and the background behind it. And yeah, definitely do recommend people going off to the Wine Australia website to look at some of the resources there. Thanks, Sharon.

Heather Field:

So now I just wanted to introduce our other two panelists for today to join our discussion. We've got Doctor Mardi Longbottom who's with the Australian Wine Research Institute, and also Rob Sutherland who is with De Bortoli Wines. They're joining our discussion, so thank you both for coming along and supporting our webinar and providing your insights as well.

Heather Field:

So I might just get both Mardi and Rob to give a quick introduction of themselves before I ask a few questions. So Mardi?

Mardi Longbottom:

Yes. My name's Mardi Longbottom. I'm the manager of sustainability and viticulture at the Australian Wine Research Institute. I've been working in the wine industry for almost 30 years now. I started working with my own family's vineyard businesses in Limestone Coast in South Australia. I've been at the AWRI for more than nine years now.

Mardi Longbottom:

The last 10 years I've probably been involved in a range of climate related research and extension projects, working on both climate mitigation techniques and also adaptation, predominantly in vineyards, and also a large part of my job is managing the wine industry's sustainability program, Sustainable Wine Growing Australia.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Mardi. And Rob?

Rob Sutherland:

Yeah. My name is Rob Sutherland. I manage the...

Heather Field:

You're breaking up a little bit there, Rob. You might turn off your camera.

Rob Sutherland:

[crosstalk 00:32:11] probably 13 providers. So we use that as the tool to...

Heather Field:

You might-

Rob Sutherland:

[crosstalk 00:32:22] if you like. Is that okay?

Heather Field:

Yes. Yeah, you're sounding better now with your camera off. Thanks, Rob.

Rob Sutherland:

Yeah. So we have many different clones and many different varieties to try and get around this vintage compression from the growing season getting warmer, if you like. But yeah, it's all a bit of a challenge.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Rob. Leave your camera off so we can hear you more clearly. But yeah, look forward to some of your responses to some of our questions coming up. And I do remind everyone, if you do have any questions for our panelists today, just enter those into the chat box and address to all panelists so the panelists can see the questions and prepare for some responses to your questions.

Heather Field:

But I will start off asking a question to some of our panelists, and we'll start with you, Bec. For grape growers and wine makers, what was some of the main take home messages that you think came from this great piece of work?

Rebecca Harris:

I think people were surprised to see the changes that have already happened. Although, I think that they experience them every year. But I think that they're used to dealing with year to year variability, so I think that sometimes that can hide the fact that we have seen a really definite trend towards warming, definitely, in all regions, and drying in some. I think that was probably the main thing and I think some of the responses were really like, "Oh, this is something that we can't continue to ignore." But then at the same time I think that, depending on the region, there are plenty of things that people already do to deal with bad years. And obviously some of those things are easier to cope with than others.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Bec. And Sharon, any comments on any take home messages?

Sharon Harvey:

I think what was surprising to me, and what's continue to emerge, is a wider discussion within the sector about how we measure things like growing degree days and the indices that are important to our sector. And how we obtain that historical data in the first place and how we're going to do that going forward, that's kind of been one of the interesting things to come out for me after the atlas, if you like.

Rebecca Harris:

Can I just add a little bit to that, Heather?

Heather Field:

Yeah, sure.

Rebecca Harris:

The growing degree days calculation's a really interesting one, because it really makes us realize that some of the indices that we've used historically worked really well for certain purposes but might not be fit for looking forward into the future as climate changes. So the example that Sharon's raising is this growing degree day calculation that in some cases started accumulating heat in October. But if you do that moving forwards you miss that six weeks of warming that we're starting to see that obviously is quite important when things are starting to grow. And the other thing is obviously that growing degree days, the historical calculation would've told you that you couldn't grow grapes in Tasmania, and we know that that's not the case.

Rebecca Harris:

So a little bit of tweaking. Once you start really focusing on trying to tailor climate indices for a particular sector but also make them climate ready, so to speak, that some of those things might have to be tweaked a little bit as well.

Heather Field:

Thanks. Thanks for that. Thanks, Bec. And Rob, from a wine grape grower perspective, what were some of the main take home messages that you think came out from the wine atlas?

Rob Sutherland:

Yeah. I was surprised by its complexity, really. I know there's all these computer models behind it all, but it does give us a lot of information and it's how we use that to our best advantage is certainly something that we have to consider.

Rob Sutherland:

It is a little bit, and Bec just alluded to it then, that outside the growing season is one of the main factors that I'm interested in. I know this study does a little bit of work on that. And just the extreme events as well, so the extreme heat waves and the frost events at the start of the season for us too.

Heather Field:

Okay. Thanks, Rob. That's good perspective as well. Keeping with you, Rob, was there anything that surprised you that you hadn't initially expected when you saw the results coming out?

Rob Sutherland:

Yeah. It's probably the combination of the change in temperature and the expected change in rainfall. So it's that aridity index, I suppose, that we have to consider irrigation supply and structure, those things that are not easy to change quickly, to cater for higher evapotranspiration and lower soil moisture going forward.

Heather Field:

Yeah, absolutely. Yes, thank you. And Bec, any surprises that you felt came out of the work that you didn't actually expect?

Rebecca Harris:

I think for us there were no big surprises in terms of the climate change projections. I mean, for us we just learned an awful lot about where the risks are different across the country. And that's got to do with your regional weather and climate systems, but it also has a lot to do with how you're set up as an industry. So access to infrastructure or access to markets and that sort of thing. So that really wide variability, I guess, shouldn't have been surprising because we're such a big country. But it's that intersection between the climate information and how people already do business will obviously be really important going forward into the future.

Heather Field:

Thanks. And Sharon, any other comments on surprises?

Sharon Harvey:

No, I don't think any surprises. I think on the take home side of things it just sets us up. It's just the start of the conversation. We're already well adapted, we already deal with a lot of variability. Grape growers are already managing the effects of climate change on the ground, as Rob mentioned, and the atlas gives us the knowledge to know what's coming and to start making plans for what is to come.

Heather Field:

Great. Thanks, Sharon. All right. We have got a few questions coming in, so we'll get to those shortly, which is great. Looks like there's a fair bit of interest. A few questions coming through.

Heather Field:

Over to Mardi. I'm just interested in what advice you'd give to other people or organizations trying to set up a project to help plan for climate change. What do you think are some of the essentials, from your experience?

Mardi Longbottom:

I think the difficulty with this question is that it's so, so complex. Wine grapes are affected in such a complexity of ways by climate change. And like Bec said, it really depends on which region you're in. I think it was Snow Barlow who coined the use of referring to the wine industry as the canary in the coalmine, because we are affected in so many different ways. In pretty much every decision we make in the vineyard, weather and climate play a part in the decision making. The initial decisions you're making when you're planting a vineyard around clones and variety, the incidents and management of pests and diseases, how you manage irrigation, how you manage nutrition. All of it is impacted by what's in the future in climate.

Mardi Longbottom:

And I suppose for me, my focus more recently has been on, okay, we're acknowledging, like we say, all of these impacts on climate and we have to continue to adapt. So I'd encourage businesses to also think about some of those other indirect impacts on the business. Just for example, I'm working with one of the largest agribusiness financial institutions in Australia. And financial institutions like this are asking questions of farmers about how they're minimizing their risks of being impacted by climate change to their business. So I'd encourage all producers to be thinking about that as well. Let's look at those impacts and look at ways that we can minimize the risks of them impacting the business long term so that we can have better, more productive conversations with lenders.

Mardi Longbottom:

And the other one that falls into that category is insurers. We're also talking to them and trying to understand will insurance be within our reach in the future. Rob talked about the extreme temperatures, both frost and also extreme heat. We can lose significant amounts of crop from this. Will the insurance be something that's in our means in the future? I'm not really sure, but we have to be talking to these groups as well and putting things in place to mitigate those risks.

Mardi Longbottom:

And the other one, obviously, is our consumers. We grow grapes to make wine and wine is something that consumers like to drink. We're becoming increasingly aware, and we've observed this globally, that consumers, there's growing expectations that producers are growing grapes and other produce sustainably and with an eye on climate change and the risks that that poses to us. And growers, producers are being asked to demonstrate that they are responding to climate change in a responsible way. So I guess that's just a bit of a different way of thinking about climate change impacts.

Heather Field:

Great. Thanks, Mardi. Definitely some good perspectives there and the bigger picture to think about as well. Bec, anything you can comment on in terms of what other organizations setting up a similar projects need to consider?

Rebecca Harris:

I think that more sectors and industries should be considering it. I think the tailoring of the climate information's really important. There is a lot of complicated climate signs behind it, which doesn't have to be important to the people using the information to make decisions. But obviously, if it's an index that's really relevant to you, then you're going to respond better than if we just give you annual means and tell you that everything on a broad scale is going to change. So I think that tailoring information's really important.

Rebecca Harris:

And then as Sharon said, it's just the beginning. So providing climate information doesn't get us to the answers which we need. We need to start sitting around the table and saying, "So what does it mean for us in our sector, in our region? And what are some of the things that we can start putting into place, trying to understand some of the trigger points where decisions are going to have to be changed to minimize that risk to your financial side of things or your insurance risk and so forth?"

Rebecca Harris:

This is all a really big discussion point across all aspects of the economy now. But it's not easy. It's not easy to decide exactly what you have to do. So the conversation really needs to start happening more widely.

Heather Field:

Yeah. And that local perspective is important, that's the sort of thing I'm hearing as well. And Sharon, any advice you can provide?

Sharon Harvey:

Oh, I think, well, take a leap of faith would be one bit of advice. I think, as Bec alluded to, it's understanding the people that have the problem as well as what the problem is, and then also understanding what the solution might look like. So there was a lot of industry consultation at the beginning of this project that happened with Bec and Tom and the university and the team at UTAS and the SARDI guys going out to the regions, talking to people about what made it difficult to grow grapes in their region, or what was great about growing grapes in their region, and what the problems were that they faced and what the important climate indices were. All that's very important to scope out initially.

Sharon Harvey:

And then in thinking about what the final product looks like. So, for example, in our case the climate atlas has turned out to be a static document rather than being on a web based kind of platform that you can dig in and out of. Because our end users preferred it to be like that, because you can use it wherever in the country you are, regardless of how stable and reliable your internet access is. So that sort of drove the look of the final product. I think my take home from that would probably be to understand what your end users' needs are right from the beginning.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Sharon. Very important. Absolutely. And just a final question from me, before I do go to our audience questions, perhaps to Mardi, what sort of activities would be valuable to follow on from this project over the next few years?

Mardi Longbottom:

My wish list is about this long. There's so many projects I think could follow on from this. I think ultimately my dream project would be to integrate this information with other pieces of information that growers are using all the time to make it live, like you said. Obviously this one is not live. It's a static document. But if we could make it live and integrate it with real weather data and modify things where the change is. That's just one. And then to be able to stack different models, could we overlay [inaudible 00:47:25] prediction models, for example, over some of these ones?

Mardi Longbottom:

So I think the way I'm using it at the moment is I'm working with quite a few growers to put together their sustainability action plans. And what they do in these plans is identify their risk areas within their business and then put a plan in place to address those risks and mitigate them as much as possible. And I'm seeing a number of growers... climate change is a massive risk for them. But I think the important thing is they can identify it early, and this is going to vary across different regions and different growers who have different growing objectives, and water availability is one of the key ones that I think every grower has identified as a risk for them, but to enable them to put it down and then put a contingency plan in place, like we just saw there. Maybe it's not the growing season rainfall but the outside of growing season rainfall that is the biggest risk for them. This tool really enables them to see what that is and then make a much clearer plan for the future. I think it's brilliant.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Mardi. And yeah, I'd love to see the full list. Sharon, any valuable activities you think could come next?

Sharon Harvey:

Well, I think we need to start to move towards adaptive options, I guess. So once everyone's sort of digested the atlas and we know what's there and started to think about what comes ahead, then we can start to think about how we might adapt. And I guess wine grapes are unique in this space in that we've got a perennial crop, not an annual crop. So we don't have an opportunity to redig things every growing season. So if you're going to pull out your vines and put something else in, it's quite a major decision and you'll be, obviously, down on productivity for the two or three years following that. Probably more.

Sharon Harvey:

So probably varieties and using the analog model, as Bec outlined, to work out what you're heading for and who's dealing with those challenges currently, that you're going to face, and what varieties and wine styles and so on that they're exploring.

Sharon Harvey:

One thing we had done initially already is to fit the results of Bec and Tom's work into an international context. So intellectually that's kind of the thing you think about. This is what we're headed for in Australia. What about the wine regions overseas? Are the trends the same, is the extent the same? Those kinds of questions. So we did commission a little piece of work from Bec and Tom to address that. And we're just getting the final figures back from Tom at the moment with captions and explanations, but I guess the take home from that so far is that, yes, everyone's headed in the same direction. We're all headed for a hotter, drier future and it's just the extent and the duration of that change that is different across different wine regions. So there'll be more in that space to come.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Sharon. And Rob, I'm just keen to know some of the ways you're adapting for the coming season and for the future.

Rob Sutherland:

Yeah. We've been doing things for a little while now that it's not so much this coming season that anything's really changing. To prevent damage from heat events and things like that, we've been using a sunscreen on the grapes for quite a few years. Doing things like that, soil moisture monitoring systems that are becoming more reliable and that we use more as the season goes. It's interesting, this year it looks like, obviously, being a La Nina, so that changes our soil moisture profiles for this year, where we've just come out of a bit of a drier season, if you like. And as Mardi said, we rely on rainfall during the winter to fill our irrigation dams or to allow us to pump from our river and creek systems in the Yarra Valley.

Rob Sutherland:

So it's sort of an ongoing process. It's not been so reactive compared to this season. It's just a shift, I suppose, across to a new system, incorporating new technology and new ideas to combat some of these changes in our growing seasons.

Heather Field:

Great. Thanks for that, Rob. Adapting is a long term process, not something you can do in the short term. So that's great to hear.

Heather Field:

So I will move over to a few questions, and we've got one from, now I hope I'm pronouncing this right, [Pang 00:53:00]. This one's to Bec. Pang's from the University of Melbourne. He's impressed by the presentation today and he just wants to know how will this research impact site selection and cultivar selection.

Rebecca Harris:

Maybe I'm not the right person to answer that. Maybe Mardi or Sharon might be better off. I guess the one thing, perhaps I could start with the background. Obviously it's information at a scale of five kilometers of 10 kilometers, so obviously the grower has more understanding of the micro climate on their actual vineyard in terms of sloping aspects and how that affects the variability from these sorts of projections. And that, I would think, would inform their thinking going forwards. But I'm not the right person. I think maybe Mardi or Sharon could answer that better.

Mardi Longbottom:

Can I have a go? I think, yeah, definitely. If people are looking at planting new vineyards, and especially going into newer regions or newer parts of regions, they should be looking at this document for sure. But I think it's not just looking at one index, it will be really looking at multiple. And then acknowledging that if rainfall is decreased, winter and growing season rainfall, the other really important thing that this document won't give though is looking at water availability. If there's no water available for irrigation, then it's probably not the best place to be growing grapes. But yes, I think it'll be incredibly valuable.

Heather Field:

Right. Thanks Mardi, thanks Bec. Danielle would like to get an understanding of the impact on growers. So would grape varieties need to change or wineries shift to cooler regions? Anyone like to respond to that one?

Rebecca Harris:

I guess I would just say really quickly, I think both of those things have already happened and going forwards that's a logical option. But I wouldn't say that it means everyone has to, because I think there's a lot of other options available in the shorter time period. But once again, I'm not viticulturist, so Mardi might be the best person, again, or Sharon.

Mardi Longbottom:

I think, perhaps Rob could chime in as well-

Rebecca Harris:

Oh sorry, Rob.

Mardi Longbottom:

... but I think you're absolutely right. You're absolutely right, though, there's some short term adaptation things we can put in place. And the other thing might be that just changing style as well are some other things you could consider. But yeah, longer term it would be making sure you've got a water source, putting in some other techniques in the vineyard, but ultimately probably looking at different varieties.

Mardi Longbottom:

But yeah, how about you, Rob?

Rob Sutherland:

Yeah. I agree with Bec, it's already happening. We see the increase in hectares planted in places like Tasmania. We see changes in varieties and we use various tools to reduce our risk in these situations. We use root stocks that cope with drier soils, we use root stocks that have a different phenology, summer, produce early phenology in varieties, and different clones ripen at different times. But it's also the multi faceted varieties that really interest us. So if you're talking about Pinot Noir we can make sparkling wine, we can make table wine, we can make Rosé from it. And from different clones we get different yields and things like that.

Rob Sutherland:

And then if you're talking warmer regions, and even in the Yarra Valley, Yarra Yering had some Portuguese varieties like Touriga and Tinta Cao over there for decades. And they may become more important in the Yarra Valley going forward.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Rob. Thanks, Mardi. We've had similar sorts of questions from a [Anouk 00:57:21] and Richard, and just let me know if you've got anything else to add. But with the changes we're seeing over the next few years, what impacts will it have on the varieties of grapes grown in each particular region, and will it fundamentally change what wines can be produced in Australia and their taste profile? Anything else to add to that?

Sharon Harvey:

Can I just touch on that generally? I mean, I think the grapevine is our friend. I think that's our biggest asset here. We use such a small proportion of the available germ plasm in terms of grapevines, so there's tremendous scope for increasing what we grow where. And understanding that there are marketing challenges around that, but there's certainly plenty of scope for planting different varieties that are well adapted to growing in certain conditions. I certainly don't think the atlas says that we won't be able to grow grapes or make wine in Australia anymore. It might be a little bit different from what we're used to, but that's an adjustment we can make and there's plenty of opportunities there.

Mardi Longbottom:

I'll just echo exactly what Sharon said there. There's so many things we have not yet exploited to their full... looking at different varieties but looking at using them in different ways to produce different stuff, there's so much opportunity there.

Rebecca Harris:

And maybe I'm a little bit naïve, but I would love to see a little bit of that knowledge sharing internationally as well as within Australia. Because if you think of the thousands and thousands of different varieties, we can quite simply find the place... in that same approach of using analogs, look at what has been grown successfully in the style and so forth historically all around the world and start to plan for the future based on really understanding the climate change.

Heather Field:

Great. Thank you for those insights. I've got a question from Sharvan [and it's more related to soil quality. She's interested, does this atlas capture change in soil quality other than moisture?

Rebecca Harris:

No is the straight answer. The atlas really is just representing climate and anything that is stand alone from climate, which is really all that you can do given the amount of information and the quality of soil mapping and so forth, and the short turnover of soil types and things. So this is just the starting point based on climate.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Bec. And just a last one for Rob, Marianne wants to know how do you apply sunscreen to grapes?

Rob Sutherland:

We use our fungicide sprayers. We can alter them in a way that we save money by just spraying on the western or on the northern bunch zone if you like. So it's kale and clay, a reflective white clay. So it's inearth, it doesn't affect wine quality or any of those things. And it just cools the temperature of those berries during the heat events where we get greater than 38 degrees, typically, in the Yarra Valley. And the critical period is around Veraison, so it's when the berries are changing color and sometimes the skin is quite rigid and structured and is not flexible enough yet. And as those juices heat up inside the berry they can rupture and we lose yield and quality as a result.

Rob Sutherland:

So it's a combination of getting your trellis orientation right, getting your canopy right, and then using sunscreen to help prevent that heat in the afternoons of those heat events.

Heather Field:

Great. Thanks, Rob. Hopefully that answers your questions, Marion. So I will pull it up there. We have just clicked over one o'clock and I just wanted to thank our presenters today and our panelists for the great discussion. It was really good to get those different perspectives from each of you and be able to respond to some of these questions that have come in. So if anyone does have anymore questions and wants those answered, please put those on our survey when you close out of the webinar today and I will forward those on to the panelists to get a response.

Heather Field:

So just on your screen there you'll see what our next climate webinar is. It's on Monday, the 30th of November, and we'll be looking at using seasonal forecasts. It's just dropped off my screen, thanks Bec.

Rebecca Harris:

Oh, sorry.

Heather Field:

That's all right. I was just reading it.

Rebecca Harris:

That wasn't very good timing at all, was it?

Heather Field:

I was just reading it off there. Using seasonal forecasts in southern Australia. And so, we'll be hearing from a great lineup of panelists there, Graeme and Jemma and Dale Gray from Agriculture Victoria, and Randall from GRDC and Mark Stanley from Regional Connections. So that's shaping up to be a great webinar. Stay tuned. If you have subscribed to this webinar you will get an email in the coming days for this upcoming webinar.

Heather Field:

Thank you again to our panelists and presenters. Thank you, Bec, Sharon, Rob and Mardi, and my backup host, Jemma. Went smoothly, which was great. Appreciate all your time preparing for today and presenting. I do remind everyone just to fill out our survey as you close out of the webinar today. Thanks everyone and have a good afternoon.

Rebecca Harris:

Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Rob Sutherland:

Thanks, Heather.

Rebecca Harris:

Bye!

Mardi Longbottom:

See you.

Page last updated: 11 Dec 2020