Australian red and white wines are about to become greener.
The nation's agriculture relies a good deal on its clean reputation. The lack of residual pesticides, herbicides and other pollutants has given Australia's food a high international standing, and a very valuable one commercially.
It's a reputation that needs constant vigilance. As Australian producers are increasingly aware, one contamination scare would do their food export trade a great deal of damage. In the wine industry, it could be devastating.
Already, a giant UK supermarket chain is uestioning Australia's biggest wine producers about their use of herbicides that are known to contaminate ground water. Their wines are tested for such contaminants continually, but even anecdotal evidence of such herbicide use could cause significant damage to exports.
In that climate, alternatives to chemical pest control appear very attractive. Mr Chris Penfold, a Research Officer with Adelaide Universitys Department of Agronomy & Farming Systems at the Roseworthy campus is about to begin a comprehensive study of organic weed control in vineyards.
Funded by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation, and supported by several local industries and a Californian equipment supplier, the project should produce valuable information on how to control vineyard weeds without the use of chemicals.
"Not all weeds are bad," says Mr Penfold, "but some might introduce disease to the vines, or act as habitat for insect and other pests. Mostly they simply compete with the crop."
A number of weed control measures will be rialled, he says.
"Cultivation is an obvious one, but cultivation can cause problems by breaking down the structure of the soil and exposing it to wind and water erosion. We will be looking at carefully timed cultivation with different implements, along with several other techniques."