Weather project to boost NZ wine industry

PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 13:39 11/09/2012

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A $500,000 research project into climate and vineyards may lead to an increase of up 10 per cent in income for the New Zealand wine industry.

University of Canterbury professor Andy Sturman is leading the two-year research project which begins this summer in Melbourne.

Researchers, including people from Plant and Food and Niwa and several French wine research experts, will look at localised variations in vineyard weather to help predict future conditions for grape production, using high-resolution computer modelling and mapping systems.

"The New Zealand wine industry will be early adopters of this technology, while other horticultural and agricultural industries worldwide will also benefit," Sturman said.

The study was expected to result in an estimated 5 to 10 per cent increase in New Zealand wine export earnings to at least $2 billion by 2020, he said.

In the past year, international sales of wine reached a record value of $1.18b, according to New Zealand Wine, up 8 per cent on the year before.

Sturman said the wine industry was highly sensitive to variations in weather, and the project would help the sector adapt and take advantage of opportunities that arise from a changing environment.

Growers would be able to anticipate impacts of weather events on production and fruit composition during the growing season, he said.

"Quality is so important and predicting weather variation in vineyard regions throughout the growing season is critical to the future of the industry."

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