Hunter Region Landcare Network and Hunter Local Landcare Services Partnership Project
Project Partnership with HunterLLS – Compost Workshop report
July 17, 2016

Compost Workshop

Pokolbin Community Hall – Wednesday 29th June 2016

The Compost Workshop was held by the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association on 29th June 2016 with support from the NSW DPI. The workshop was made possible with supporting funds received from the Hunter Region Landcare Network and its partners Hunter Local Land Services and the National Landcare Program.

The workshop was pitched at local vineyards and wineries with a focus on the “how to” of compost production, utilising winery waste streams e.g. .grape marc, cardboard, garden waste etc.

The four speakers were

  • Darren Fahey – NSW DPI Development Officer Viticulture
  • David Forrest – Forrest Farm (organic farmer – Northern NSW)
  • John Kalleske – Kalleske Vineyards (organic vineyard owner/operator, Barossa Valley, SA)
  • David Lowe – Lowe Vineyards (Mudgee, NSW)

The speakers were all very knowledgeable and delivered talks that set the scene in regards to the science behind composting, the processes involved and in the execution of the processes to get the desired outcomes. The talks covered different methods of composting and the differences in the compost they produce. With two vineyard/winery focused speakers this was able to then be tailored to how these different products are suitable for use at different times of the season and for different phases in the vineyard’s life e.g. in the development phased compared with the production phase.

David Forrest and David Lowe provided some very useful information on ratios of inputs and how to manage the composting process. This included how to keep the process going when it slows and how to manage the process to minimise the labour inputs required i.e. if the ratios are right then there will be less need for watering and turning. David Forrest was also able to add some insight in how to manage compost production in high rainfall regions, as this is a potential challenge in the Hunter in the period when we would be composting i.e. post-harvest (February onwards).

David Lowe showcased his analysis and financials of compost production, which was very relevant for those considering going down his path. David along with John Kalleske provided great insight into application methods, where they apply the compost (the midrow rather than undervine), application rates, expected benefits and time frames for change. Much of this was different to how many growers currently use commercially available products in the undervine area. This lead onto a good discussion in regards to soil biology and vine resilience versus just adding organic matter and gaining mulching properties.

Some growers brought along samples of the compost they have been making and were able to receive feedback on how it was progressing and tips on when it would be suitable for use. The morning tea break provided a good opportunity to inspect samples that David Forrest had brought and for growers to get specific questions answered.

John Kalleske discussed his composting process in the context of his whole farm philosophy. His experiences and wine quality outcomes were very credible and provided confidence in the use of compost. With the Barossa having a quite different climate to the Hunter there were many questions in regards to how this region may need to adapt processes to accommodate the wetter conditions. John provided some insights into equipment and undervine weed management which were of great interest.

The workshop had 23 registered attendees, but there were a few extras on the day. The level of engagement was high from attendees as indicated by the technical questions coming from the floor.

The session closed with a request for participants to work collaboratively to progress some plans for composting post the 2017 vintage (Jan-March 2017). The lead time to the commencement of the growing season (Sept) will provide local vignerons with time to assess the opportunity, and to put plans in place to implement a program in the New Year. There is a strong level of local collaboration and we would expect to see some composting executed in 2017. Those who are already composting have left with added knowledge and tools to manage their process for better outcomes and benefit.

The HVWTA appreciates the support of the Hunter Region Landcare Network, Local Land Services, the National Landcare Program and the NSW DPI, in particular Darren Fahey for his work in pulling the workshop together.

Liz Riley

HVWTA Viticulture Sub-committee Representative (and project co-ordinator for the workshop).