2015 October: Newtons Ridge Winery Hit By Spray Drift

Newtons Ridge winery hit by spray drift

The Standard

Oct. 13, 2015

SOUTH-west winery Newtons Ridge has been hit with chemical spray drift that is expected to wipe out half its chardonnay grape crop.

Owner David Falk estimates the loss of fruit will cost him about $37,000 in lost wine production.

He said the spray had shrivelled the vine leaves and dwarfed the growth of new vine shoots.

The vines, which were presently at flowering stage, would not bear fruit, Mr Falk said.

He found the damage early last week and believes the spraying might have occurred in the week prior.

Newtons Ridge winery is located on Cooriemungle Road at Cooriemungle, south of Simpson.

“It’s hit about .5 acre (.2 hectare) to an acre (.4 ha). But I’ve only got about seven acres (2.8 ha),” Mr Falk said.

“It came as a shock,” Mr Falk said.

“I thought at first I had downy mildew,” he said.

However an agronomist had quickly identified the cause as spray drift and biosecurity specialists had confirmed the diagnosis.

The vines were being tested to determine what chemical was responsible, Mr Falk said.

He estimated the damage would wipe out half his chardonnay grapes this year, cutting his production of chardonnay wine by about 1000 litres.

“There is nothing we can do to fix the situation this year.

“I just hope next year it does not happen again,” Mr Falk said.

This year’s damage led him to believe that similar damage last year to his sauvignon blanc vines might have also been from spray drift.

That damage lost him between one third and a half of his sauvignon blanc grapes.

Mr Falk said he hoped his setbacks would serve as a lesson to farmers to be careful about weather conditions when spraying.

“Think about the wind,” he said.

“It could have come from 10 kilometres away,” Mr Falk said.

People should also not spray in foggy conditions because the spray could mix with the fog and move with it, he said.

He said neighbouring farms worked in well with his winery and he was not blaming anyone.

Mr Falk, who owns the south-west real estate company Falk & Co, bought the Newtons Ridge winery four years ago from David and Dot Newton. It produces a range of red and white wines.

The state government recommends that agricultural chemicals be applied within buffer zones and vegetative barriers to reduce the potential for spray drift.