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Sustainable Viticulture in Australia

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By Mark Lubell - Posted on 21 July 2010

As detailed on our projects page, our National Science Foundation study of sustainable viticulture is in full swing. But sustainable viticulture is not only a California phenomena. It is also occuring in countries like Australia, as illustrated by an interview about the Yalumba Wine Company.

Sustainable viticulture in Australia almost certainly deals with some of the same issues as in California: how to encourage grower participation, which management practices have the best environmental and economic benefits, how to acheive the longer-term goals of sustainability (economics, environment, equity), whether growers and winemakers will receive a price premium in emerging green markets, competition among different certification programs, and whether or not sustainability is a marketing gimmick that doesn't lead to real change or results. These are certainly not the only issues, but they are some of the big ones.

Some of our research is beginning to answer these questions. For example, we just had an article accepted to Society and Natural Resources that analyzes data from the Lodi Winegrape Commission and has pretty good evidence that participation in sustainability programs is associated with increased practice adoption. We also have some survey data from outreach professionals (to be released soon) that shows a widespread belief that sustainability programs are increasing the adoption of practices with environmental benefits. However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about other sustainability goals like social equity. At the moment I'm pretty optmistic about these programs and think their purported benefits are real, and while the criticisms have some merit, they are not serious enough to abandon these experiments.