Swan Valley table grape growers have harvests halved due to freak summer rain

Stock image.
Stock image.

SWAN Valley table grape growers have been hit hard for the second year in a row, with some losing almost half their harvest in one day after a freak weather event last week.

Some properties in the region had up to 93mm of rain in one day thanks to a tropical low caused by ex-tropical cyclone Joyce, moving from the north coast of WA and causing havoc for growers with unseasonal weather.

Matt Katich said he had lost almost half his fruit from two of the varieties he grew.

“We have lost about 40 to 50 per cent of flame seedless and midnight beauty varieties, which are susceptible to rain damage,” he said.

“The rain causes the grapes to split and the fungus grows in the split.”

Mr Katich’s property was one of several in the Swan Valley to be hit by two separate weather events within the space of two weeks in February last year, which caused major flooding and damage to vines.

“Last year we had two weather events, so last year was a lot worse, but these weather events are usually a one in 10 year event, now we’ve had them two years in a row,” he said.

“I’m not a climate scientist but if you listen to what they are saying, Perth is getting less rain in winter and more rain in summer.

“We will probably look at investing in plastic covers for next year. It comes at a cost but it’s better than the alternative.”

Thanks to last week’s deluge, this summer has been ranked as the fourth wettest on record, with the Bureau of Metrology predicting more wet weather and colder temperatures from February to April.

Swan Valley & Regional Winemakers Association president Yuri Berns said wine grapes had been less affected by the rain, but the rain would have an impact on dates for this year’s vintage.

He said changing climate conditions would most likely mean more severe weather events and meant growers needed to be more innovative in their approach to grape growing.

“The industry is aware and concerned of the changing weather and extreme weather events. Not just rain, but extreme heat and bushfires,” he said

“In the future the way we grow our grapes may change. The major change might be the varieties, so drought tolerant and disease resistant.”

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