Vine magazine November 2020

Page 1






Protecting the quality of your fruit

An air freight treatment that doesn’t break the cold chain. A sea freight treatment for New Zealand that arrives a week earlier. Table grape irradiation protocols for: • Vietnam, • New Zealand • Domestic ICA markets • Additional markets in negotiation Service Locations VIC 21 Titan Drive, Mickleham, VIC 3064 03 9216 3500

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Contents 4

Cover story Cool runnings

30 Biosecurity Pierce’s disease & GWSS


News Introducing GrapeInvest

32 Biosecurity Notifying of fruit fly larvae

10 ATGA acting chair & CEO news

33 News MDBA in Mildura

11 DFA chair & CEO news

34 Processing & marketing APDF

12 Table grape news

35 Processing & marketing Sunbeam Foods

14 Dried grape news

36 Processing & marketing MRO

16 Prune news Leading the way

37 Marketing 2021 Exporter Directory

18 News Early days, new adventures

38 Profile Sultana Sisters

20 Events New look forums

39 Community Get Social

22 Insights 2019/20 export season snapshot

39 Board members

23 Insights Dried grape trade report 24 Varieties Varieties to watch 26 Research Evaluation project update 28 Research Microvine’s max potential The Vine is a joint publication of the Australian table grape and dried fruits industries. For editorial and advertising enquiries, contact: Dried Fruits Australia T: (03) 5023 5174 E: W: Australian Table Grape Association T: (03) 5021 5718 E: W: Editorial committee: Anne Mansell, Lauren Roden (DFA), Jeff Scott, Terryn Milner (ATGA) Design: Kylie Norton Design Printing: Sunnyland Press Cover photo: ANDFresh director Allan Anderson and Paringi grower/ transport operator Josh Cirillo. Photography by David Sickerdick. © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2020 This publication has been funded by Hort Innovation using the table grape and dried grape levies and funds from the Australian Government. Wherever you see a Hort Innovation logo, the initiative is part of the Table Grape, Dried Grape, Dried Tree Fruit or Prune Fund. Some projects also involve funding from additional sources.

For further publication details, see page 39

Table Grapes

Dried Grapes

Combined Industries

Dried Prunes

New season, new hope The year’s end is often a time of reflection, bringing with it a certain amount of hope for the new year ahead. Many will be eager to put 2020 behind them, while also recognising – and perhaps even being thankful for – the many challenges which encourage us to grow and adapt. We can never be sure of what’s to come. However, we still look to 2021 and the new harvest season with a sense of optimism. Wishing you all the best for the festive season. Thank you for your readership and embracing the new-look Vine – we’ll see you next year! – from the team

Cool runnings The importance of trust has never been greater than it is now.

Keith when we did the AQA (approved quality assurance) program, and that highlighted the importance.”

For members of the horticulture supply chain, and the consumers they covet, transparency is key to growing trust and boosting industry sustainability.

Things have advanced since the first sea shipments, but one thing that has remained steady over that time is Allan’s commitment to improving industry.

That’s why recent efforts to enhance the table grape industry’s cold chain efficiency and international competitiveness on the export scene are being spruiked as an important piece in the traceability puzzle.

“Smart future of Australian agriculture” Seeing the potential of the FRIGGA real-time data loggers, Allan applied for funding through the Federal

Industry pioneer Allan Anderson is part of that puzzle piece, having undertaken a career-long quest to improve postharvest quality through research and innovation.

Government’s Traceability Grants

Allan has worked in a variety of roles in the supply chain over the past 40 years, from grower and exporter through to supplier of data logging platforms for cold chain monitoring.

grape exports, to see the benefit to

Program and was successful. Back in August, Allan’s company AND Fresh Mildura received funding to trial the technology across table Australia’s reputation as a premium supplier of table grape exports, research gaps in the cold chain and implement any changes necessary to

For the past year, Allan has been trialling a new logger, which uses FRIGGA technology to track the performance of export shipments from the moment they’re harvested to the time they reach the importer – all in real time.

improve industry practices.

While monitoring shipments is not new, exporters have been doing so since the first grape exports departed Australia in the 1980s – albeit using primitive monitors – what is unique about this particular trial is the technology’s ability to track temperature, location, light and humidity continuously, with the information “at your fingertips”, using a phone or computer to follow the fruit’s journey.


“We realised the importance of monitoring, particularly temperature, in containers,” Allan said. “It started back in the days of Keith Leamon. I was running Boyanda and got involved with

said the technology could identify


Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the trial had the potential to “boost export supply chain traceability”, which is an “increasingly valuable currency in these challenging “Traceability is about consumer trust and we know trust is an increasingly valuable currency in these challenging times,” Minister Littleproud said. “Building more awareness about just how safe and healthy Aussie produce means more opportunities to export and more dollars for our farmers.” Member for Mallee Anne Webster any breaks in the cool chain, providing a greater guarantee to not just Australian growers and exporters but their customers.




Left: ANDFresh director Allan Anderson (right) and grower Anthony Cirillo explore the capabilities of real-time data logging.

“This is the technologically smart

business Cirillo farms with their father

future of Australian agriculture,

Cosi, while Josh manages the transport

guaranteeing quality and surety

arm of the business, Cirillo Transport.

of Australian products around the world. Technology like this is driving us towards $100 billion by 2030,” Dr Webster said.

“Using these loggers helps eliminate part of the grower’s risk,” Anthony said. “Everything comes back on the growers: the importer passes to the

helps maintain honesty.”

Keep cool and carry on For exporter and industry stalwart David Minnis, real-time monitoring provides a “clear advantage” for Australia’s table grape exports.

The trial will take place on table

shipping lines, who pass them onto

David said while most shipping lines

grape shipments, one each to three

the exporter and the exporter passes

and transport companies were much

separate countries, early in 2021

it onto the freight company, and the

more reputable now than when table

– one container each of Menindee

freight company says, ‘No, it’s the

grape exports first began, due to an

Seedless, Thompson Seedless, and

grower’s fruit!’ ”

improvement of performance and

Crimson Seedless – beginning with the early season Menindees in January, Thompsons in February and Crimsons in March.

Anthony said returning some of the control to the growers and allowing cool chain visibility kept all parts of

technological advances in equipment, there can be a mentality of “it’s best you don’t know”.

the export supply chain accountable,

Shipping lines don’t release the

“We’ll use two multichannel loggers

and provided a “very cheap insurance”

recorded temperature of a container,

in every container,” Allan said. “We’ll

to growers, and their exporters.

David said, which can hinder an

go into the field at a given point in the day, perhaps around 10 o’clock in the morning, and we’ll put one of the loggers with the long probe into the actual centre of the box, and then we’ll leave the logger just sitting on

Josh agreed, and said that was part of the reason they had aligned with Allan

“In South Africa, you can put the

role as a fruit packer and transport

carriage temperature on the bill


of lading and say ‘This fruit will be

“We trialled the loggers on some

pulp temperature as well as ambient

initial shipments when our transport


department was new,” Josh said. “As

those two loggers in the field, and when they’re going through the cold


and his real-time data loggers in their

top of the box. So we’ll be getting

“We’ll then do a correlation between

exporter’s claim if any outturn issues

growers as well as packers/freight providers, we understand the level of trust involved.

carried at 0°C or 1°C’,” David said. “The shipping companies in Australia have never allowed us to do that. When the container arrives in the port of discharge the air temperature measurements during the voyage are recorded on the Partlow chart which

chain. Once they get loaded onto the

“By putting one of these devices in

the shipping company removes and

pallet and into the container, it’ll still

their loads, it allows growers to track

keeps as a record that isn’t made

be doing that correlation.”

the fruit from their shed to when it

available to the exporter. Similarly

gets to my warehouse; you can see

for in-transit cold treated fruit the

the temperature, and see when we are

three thermocouple recorders are

Anthony and Josh Cirillo have seen

loading the container and inspecting

downloaded by the shipping company

first-hand the benefit of the FRIGGA

it that it continues to sit at that

and made available to the quarantine

real-time loggers, and are spruiking


authorities but not necessarily to the

Driving progress

the use of them, in their role as growers and transport operators. Anthony helps run their family


“It’s that little bit extra insurance,


which – as a grower and transport

“If the exporter didn’t have some

company – we believe is worth it. It

sort of recorder in with the fruit, he


would never be able to prove that the

Real-time monitoring also allows

exporters in the driver’s seat, not left

shipping company did the wrong thing

exporters to make smarter decisions

playing a waiting game.

and carried the fruit at the wrong

to protect their brand, Australia’s


reputation, and their bottom line.

“When you lodge a claim they will

“If we can monitor using the new

prevaricate and try to take as long as

recorders the performance of the

possible to settle that after 12 months

containers from Australia to the

any claim becomes null and void.”

market that’s a clear advantage,” David

Tracing the cool chain While change can be confronting for some, technological advances in traceability can only lead to improving industry sustainability.

said. “Not just putting recorders in the

Allan’s trial aims to overcome any

container at the time of loading and

shortcomings in the cool chain – be it

The accuracy of the FRIGGA

having to recover them when they’ve

at a grower, exporter, freight, shipping

technology provides exporters and

arrived in the market and having

or importer level – and raise awareness

growers with greater insurance than

to download them and see how the

about the advances in fresh fruit

they have ever had, making each area

container performed on the way, which


of the supply chain more accountable

is what most of the country still does.

for its role in the fruit’s journey.

“If you can download the performance

in Australia, improving practices can

While some other recorders only

of the container while it’s travelling

only enhance Australia’s standing as

measure ambient temperature,

to the market you’re in a much better

a provider of premium fruit – with the

FRIGGA is capable of measuring pulp

position to make a decision.”

best Crimson Seedless in the world,

temperature to get a very accurate

Both David and Anthony specified that

Manage the outcome


As the highest valued fresh fruit export

according to David.

having early insight to be able to divert

“(Increasing traceability) is just another

Allan said while two normal USB

a shipment to another market, if, say

way of showing we care about our

recorders were normally needed

the market was expecting premium

produce, and that’s what it comes

for insurance purposes, one

fruit and the data recorded showed

down to,” Anthony said. “It’s a big

FRIGGA logger would satisfy claim

less than optimal temperatures –

plus.” v


which could cause distress – put

• •

Want to learn more?



A model investment

Before even stepping foot in the vineyard, people looking to invest in the dried grape industry can test their investment assumptions using Dried Fruits Australia’s new GrapeInvest program. Built using industry experience to provide investors with real-world grape

customers are wanting more than we

“In fact, sitting behind the model are

can currently supply.

very detailed analyses that build up

“The industry is also highly mechanised, which reduces reliance on seasonal labour, and producers can select from a growing number of varieties that better suit our markets and production environments. Having access to early to late-ripening varieties is also really beneficial from a risk management perspective.

the investment story from the ground floor. This analysis includes the labour, machinery and consumables required for each activity in the vineyard, along with an estimate of all the posts, wire, trellises, vines and irrigation infrastructure required for setting up a new vineyard.” Stuart said the level of detail behind the model allowed it to be used for a

growing information on which to base

“The industry also has a well-

their plans, GrapeInvest can test a large

established ethic of sharing production

range of scenarios within a short time

information with any new growers

“While the web-based tool gives a very

for rapid comparison.

seeking guidance.”

sound overview of potential investment,

DFA chair Mark King said the

DFA project officer Stuart Putland said

organisation was currently using the

GrapeInvest was an online program,

program in discussions with investors

ensuring that any updates to the model

and investment facilitators.

would be immediately available to

“At a time when stable prices and clear

users. The program also links to the

evidence of sustainable production

Dried Grape Best Practice Guides on

number of different functions.

the details contained in separate spreadsheets allow investors and existing growers to drill down and test their own assumptions around specific aspects of growing grapes in their planned development,” he said.

the DFA website to help new investors

“For existing growers, the model can

profitable food production industry,

and existing growers test their

help with those nagging questions

wise agricultural investors are looking

investment assumptions.

around things like, ‘what will my cash

at our industry,” Mark said.

“The big benefit for investors is that

“For people investing for the first

the program saves them time by

time, there are many other advantages

bringing all the information on the

“It also gives corporate investors the

including growing export demand for

industry together so they can make an

opportunity to assess a large-scale

Australian dried grapes – particularly

informed assessment of its investment

investment with an assumed ‘rate of

into Asia. But all over the world,

potential,” Stuart said.

return’ and ‘discounted cash flow’.”

at 10 tonnes per hectare make this a


flow look like in the first few years of a new planting?’.


Let’s see an example The scenario pictured looks at a large-

year, that can be easily changed,” Stuart said.

scale investment of 250 hectares that

“You can see in this example that a

is split between 100 hectares of an

drop in yield in year 10 has reduced the

early variety like Selma Pete,

gross margin.

100 hectares of a later-ripening variety such as Sunmuscat or Sunglo, and 50 hectares of Carina currants. This planting mix was chosen to spread the adverse harvest weather risk and conversely, given the size of the operation, extend the harvest window to reduce logistical pressure during harvest. As shown, the summary page gives a quick overview of the investment, while the detailed output of the program gives a running “year-by-year” assessment of the investment over a 20-year period. For instance, in this model scenario, the cash flow for the project becomes positive in the fourth year of investment, and the fully discount net present value payback period, at an eight per cent return, is 14 years. Additionally, many of the inputs to the model can be varied.

“Some existing growers may only want to assess an investment made on land they already own, so don’t want to include the cost of land purchase in their calculations. Things like that can be easily done in this program.” GrapeInvest was developed in partnership with Stephen Chaffey, managing director at Chaffey and Associates, who provided the modelling knowhow and continues to support the maintenance of the program. The program forms part of DFA’s 10 Tonne Project, which promotes the investment potential of the dried grape industry at its higher levels of production. This project was funded by the Australian Government under the Murray–Darling Basin Economic Development Program. v If you are interested in using or just having a look at GrapeInvest,

“If you want to see what happens to the

please contact Stuart Putland

investment’s overall financial position

on (03) 5023 5174 or at

with a change in yield or price in any

“At a time when stable prices and clear evidence of sustainable production at 10 tonnes per hectare make this a profitable food production industry, wise agricultural investors are looking at our industry.”



Gains and campaigns A note from our acting chair There’s always a mix of feelings entering a new growing season. Some feelings are positive, like hope for the season and positivity surrounding the crop, but others involve anticipation and uncertainty. Like I said in my previous chair report, uncertainty is nothing new for us. We face each new season of growing with lots of questions – some things we can control and others completely out of our hands. One topic that is at the forefront of everyone’s minds is labour. I know many growers across the country are concerned about how they will fulfil their seasonal workforce, considering some have already experienced issues finding workers for shoot-thinning. The ATGA is working hard to tackle the issue of labour. Jeff is on a number of local, state and federal government committees currently addressing the critical labour shortage through shortand medium-term initiatives. The issues we face are multifaceted due to state and international borders, but the ATGA and regional grower associations are fighting for our industry. Shortly the ATGA will hold its annual general meeting at which point each state will nominate its representative to act as a delegate on the ATGA, as well as formally nominate a chair and deputy chair.

News from our CEO

Ministers Littleproud and Birmingham recently stated that growers should look to diversify their interests and export to as many countries as possible. While the table grape industry benefits from market access to nearly every country around the world, the ATGA works hard to improve our industry’s access to countries to achieve the ministers’ recommendations. In recent times we’ve improved market access in a variety of ways. On-shore fumigation and on-shore cold treatment is now a reality for China, as is in-transit cold treatment at 3°C; in-transit cold treatment has been accepted for India; and a variation to the South Korean protocol has seen 600 bunch preshipment inspection only rather than two per cent inspection plus supervision of container loading. (While the official protocol has not been changed, the ATGA is working with the DAWE to have South Korea officially alter the inspection rate and hopefully remove the requirement for international inspectors to come to Australia every year.) The new Merrifield Steritech facility has also been accepted for irradiation as post-harvest treatment for shipments to New Zealand. While we’ve made these gains, we have several aims for the future. A major priority lies in gaining varietal access to Japan. At the last bi-lateral meeting

Jeremey Boyd | Acting chair


between Japan and Australia, Australia successfully negotiated varietal access for mangoes and, hopefully, this will be ratified shortly, after internal formal procedures of public hearings/ submissions. Mangoes’ success should pave the way for table grapes to negotiate varietal access into Japan. It won’t happen for this harvest, but we’re hopeful to export all varieties to Japan in 2021/22. We’ve also been providing advice to the government to amend the US protocol to accept system-based monitoring for light brown apple moth, which would negate the requirement for on-shore pre-shipment fumigation and cold treatment. We have participated in lengthy discussions recently with the US Embassy detailing our requests for protocol changes. Further irradiation acceptance is also a priority. Thailand has now accepted irradiation for persimmons, so this should open the pathway for table grapes to be accepted, and we hope Vietnam will accept the new Merrifield facility in the near future. ATGA recently had a dedicated meeting with DAWE to discuss market access requests for the future. We constantly strive to achieve better outcomes for growers by enhancing and diversifying our export opportunities. This year has been tough. The ATGA wishes everyone an enjoyable festive season and, for our early season growers, a successful harvest. v

Jeff Scott | CEO


Looking ahead A note from our chair With pruning behind us, we look forward to a good year ahead. We have had a wet winter and the forecast is saying a wet spring, the vines have moved early, and it looks like bunch numbers will be good. The water outlook is also heading the right way. It’s important that we all keep up our spray programs as it has been some time since we have had any serious threats from disease. The DFA spray diary has been sent out to members and has a list of chemicals that have been banned. I urge growers to make sure they know what can and cannot be used on dried grapes. If you aren’t sure, check with your processors. Now, I want to touch on Sunglo for a minute. Yes, it got burnt last year (as did some other varieties, including Sunmuscat) but I still believe it is a good variety – high yielding and rain tolerant. As both Sunglo and Sunmuscat are late ripening, what we need from a risk management point of view is to have varieties coming in at different times over the harvest period. Sugra 39 is an early variety, as is Selma Pete, and could be followed by Merbein seedless or Carina currants. There are great savings through better utilisation of plants and being able to offer employment over a longer period.

Mark King | Chair

We must plant high producing varieties and take those low producing patches out. The varieties I mentioned are high producing and rain tolerant (at least to some degree), so I urge you to consider these factors when thinking about replanting. Finally, we as growers need to plan ahead so nurseries can deliver our requirements. I am hearing that nurseries have been getting enquires from growers asking for vines they cannot deliver, simply because they weren’t ordered far enough ahead.

News from our CEO 2020 has thrown us lots of challenges and many hurdles to jump over, so we look forward to an improvement across 2021. COVID-19 continues to create challenges across the industry and community. DFA has a COVIDSafe Plan in place, requiring anyone coming into the office to register their name and phone number. With the directive to work from home, staffing in the office has been minimal, but we have put new systems in place to provide as an effective service as we possibly can. We have moved events online, while still providing industry updates and knowledge extension.

measures are fully compliant so COVID-19 has the least impact on our people and region, it has been a good reminder that we can’t let our guard down to plant pathogens either. With this in mind, DFA has been working closely with Plant Health Australia and other horticultural industry bodies to ensure biosecurity skills are maintained and improved. DFA has also been focused on developing a new Owner Reimbursement Cost Evidence Framework in case of an outbreak that could impact dried grapes. Working through this process, it has become very clear that a grower’s own records will be one of the first points of evidence in the overall assessment process. Therefore, it’s very important that all growers, where possible, have records of capital and production costs along with contracted prices. While DFA has data that can be utilised, the evidence framework will refer to the grower’s records in the first instance. DFA staff would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for these last weeks of 2020 and a safe and happy festive season.v

In putting together safety plans, wearing masks and ensuring hygiene

Anne Mansell | CEO



State of play LOOK A HE A D F OR G R O WER S A R O U N D AU STR A L I A

Victoria The crops look like they’re going to be okay – actually up on last year. The biggest issues – and they play into each other – are COVID-19 and labour. We’re starting to use labour for thinning out and we’re already running short and that’s only one quarter of what I use for harvest time and I don’t have enough. I’m using locals at the moment, but it’s going to be a big issue if state borders aren’t open, because there are backpackers in Queensland who, if they’re unable to get back here, it’s going to be hard. We really need international borders open to students and working holidaymakers to supplement. All the growth in volume is off new varieties – PBR varieties, across all breeders. There’s big activity with all Sun World, IFG, Sheehan, and it’s a pretty even spread. All these customers just want new, something fresh. A new colour, new shape, new flavour. It looks like we’re going to have a

South Australia wet season with La Nina. I think we’ll have increased pressure with disease, and some rain issues, but it might be good for in flows and rain allocations. So it’s a double-edged sword. COVID-19 is a big issue for markets – how fruit is going to move. A positive from last year is that it will have been a full 12 months and a lot of the customers are out of lockdown and know how to handle it a bit better, things might be a bit more stable. We need every market. I’ve been pushing customers for that certainty, and they’re saying that things will be more stable this coming season. We had some country that were entering lockdowns when we were entering lockdowns when we were shipping earlier this year and it was really uncertain – we didn’t know whether we’d be able to sell the product. But that seems like it’s all sorted. – Rocky Mammone, Mildura grower

New South Wales Everything seems to be going okay, and it seems as though everyone has a good crop. Around Euston things are looking good at the moment – medium to high volumes! A few people have found yellow vines because of the cold weather. These require certain fertilisers and then we need a bit of hot weather. It doesn’t affect yield but might stunt the growth of a few varieties. Some of the concerns include


labour and some uncertainty toward markets. There’s still a lot of people who are positive, despite things being a bit unpredictable. You have to keep positive otherwise you might as well give up! There is some increased growth with some of the bigger growers, and a fair bit of licensed varieties going in. The leasing prices for water are a bit cheaper at the moment, because of rain. – Joe Gareffa, Euston grower

The season here is about two weeks early – we will possibly be able to start picking between Christmas and New Year, which is something new. We’re in the middle of shoot thinning at the moment. We haven’t been affected much by the coronavirus restrictions – South Australia has not seen much effect at all. We’ve had a bit of growth in the Riverland and there are others interested in coming on board in Loxton. We have about six growers here now, with most producing Flame Seedless, Crimson Seedless, Menindee Seedless, and some Thompson Seedless. While there’s been a shortage of labour for picking oranges, we’re not expecting too many issues here for the upcoming season. We use a plant growth regulator to even up budburst. We’ve had a cold winter – the coldest I can ever remember. We had about 27 frosts! Budburst has been very prolific, with buds coming out on things that shouldn’t even had buds. It has taken a lot more to thin the shoots. If we can keep the nutrients up – we use a hydrocomplex – I would say it could be 20–30 per cent up on last year. Last year was light because we had a warm winter, but this year is the opposite. Time will tell, though! – David Agg, Riverland grower


Western Australia Fruitico Farms is planting the first commercial vineyard in Broome. The vines were planted four weeks ago, with the shoots already one metre in length. Broome will now be the earliest region for harvest in Western Australia. Carnavon looks like it’s going to have an average crop. The earlier varieties have completed fruit set with berry size ranging between 6mm and 10mm. Later varieties such as AutumnCrisp have just completed flowering. Vines in the midwest are carrying good bunch numbers with good growth. The Swan Valley has experienced its fourth driest winter on record. Budburst was slightly earlier than normal. Bunch numbers look to be average to above average on some varieties compared to below average on

Northern Territory most varieties last year. Most varieties in the southwest region have completed budburst. Early indications are that the vines are carrying good bunch numbers.

At the moment everything is looking

Sourcing labour is going to be one of the major issues growers will face this season. The restrictions on travel into WA will prevent a lot of workers coming in to the state to carry out the tasks required to get the crops even to the picking stage let alone the harvest itself. Hopefully the government will relax some of the restrictions shortly to allow the movement of labour into the state. Growers in the vegetable and strawberry industries have already had to forego the harvesting of some crops. This is just another challenge of being a grower in today’s world.

struggle, but we’re currently getting

– Peter Nuich, Swan Valley grower

Mundubbera and Emerald are looking quite good – average to a bit above average. A lack of staff is everyone’s lament. We haven’t had any serious weather. We tend to get our more severe storms and weather in an El Niño, so

think we’ll be all right. The Northern Territory has declared all of Victoria a COVID hotspot, so we might in place all our COVID plans. They’re talking about opening up the borders in November – we’ve still gone ahead with our due process, but if that doesn’t happen we need everything in place. There are only two growers in the Northern Territory – I’m at Rocky Hill and Phil Marciano has Ti Tree. We’ve got a reasonable crop at the moment, so now I just need to get it in a box! We normally pick the first couple of weeks of December. We’ve got a good average crop and the fruit seems to be a bit earlier

Queensland We’ve got a fruitful year in St George.

pretty good! Apart from crew, I

than last year – the weather has been beautiful. This time last year

it just depends where you are.

we were getting cooked. When it

There is talk of a grower heading into North West Queensland, but I don’t think that’s happened yet.

gets that hot the vines slow down. – Richie Hayes, Rocky Hill grower

Everything in St George and Mundubbera is pretty much status quo! – Richard Lomman, St George grower

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Benchmarking results are in News from our field officer The latest results from Dried Fruits Australia’s benchmarking project have revealed that 60 per cent of the sites involved yielded more than 10 tonnes per hectare for the second year in a row.

By way of background, there wasn’t

on the benchmarking Sunglo sites,

much change in the viticulture

it varied greatly across the three

practices used on each site between

patches. The oldest and most vigorous

2019 and 2020. The canopy

Sunglo site went from 12.3 tonnes per

management, pest and disease

hectare in 2019 down to 10.4 tonnes

control, irrigation and nutrition

per hectare in 2020.

Three sites also look to be building

management for each vineyard were

The two younger Sunglo sites, both

pretty much the same as the previous

in their second full season, faired a


little differently. The young patch with

You will notice that most of the sites

better canopy vigor dropped from

produced less than they did last year.

9.4 to 8.5 tonnes per hectare. This

Only the last three patches – Selma

seems to be a small drop but, given

Pete, Sultana and Sunmuscat – had a

the age of the vines, the expectation

better yield in 2020 than in 2019. This

for 2020 was more like 10 tonnes per

– from 2019 and 2020 – the signs are

is easiest to see by comparing tonnes

hectare, so I believe there was more

positive. Benchmarking for 2020 also

per hectare (2019 – red squares and

damage than the yield numbers show.

highlights several other interesting

2020 – top of green bars). The only

The other young Sunglo patch, which


one with a possible reason for its

had less canopy vigor and is in a more

better performance is the Selma Pete

exposed site, had very significant

site, which seems to have taken until

damage. It dropped from 7.1 to 2.9

the 2020 season to recover from a

tonnes per hectare.

total crop loss and vine damage from

What has changed?

towards that production level. While we only have two years of data

All yield data is contained in Graph 1. I have used the same reporting system as last year, presenting the information for each site in three

hail in the 2016/17 season.

different ways – tonnes per acre,

The results of DFA’s minimal pruning

tonnes per hectare and tonnes per

A potential cause of lower 2020 yields

kilometre of cordon. The updated

was the heat during summer 2019/20.

graph shows the 2020 data in the

However, during the season we really

different coloured bars and the 2019

only noticed this with Sunglo and,

Early analysis of the 2020/21 season

data in the different symbols.

while there were certainly impacts

has shown that pruning costs have

trials have been applied to four of the benchmarking sites.

YIELD FROM BENCHMARKING SITES 2019 & 2020 Tonnes per hectare 2020 Tonnes per acre 2020 Tonnes per km of cordon 2020 Tonnes per hectare 2019 Tonnes per acre 2019 Tonnes per km of cordon 2019

18 16 14


12 10 8 6 4 2 0


















































reduced by 28 per cent. This means a

anywhere near the 10 tonne per

saving of $583 per hectare, assuming

hectare level. Unfortunately, they

a casual piecework rate of $27.78/

haven’t been listening and it looks like


this season will be their last.

The changes have been in streamlining

Having clear and comparable

the breakdown of pruning activities.

information on the relative inputs

The workflow has become – pinning

and performance of these vineyards

canes with the floating wire, tipping

strongly supports the business

the trellis, pruning unwanted canes

decisions to redevelop these

and cleaning up the cordon, not rolling

sites and, while the benchmarking

on canes and trimming off long canes

program finishes next season, it

with a cutter bar.

would be wonderful to follow the

The results at the end of pruning are obviously not as neat and we will look

redevelopment progress of these vineyards into the future. v

Early analysis of the 2020/21 season has shown that pruning costs have reduced by 28 per cent.

Below: Heat damage in older Sunglo benchmarking site vines

for any resulting canopy management issues during the coming season.

What will change? I’m not sure if it was the clear comparison of yield data in the benchmarking process that helped, but two participants have decided to make significant changes to their sites. Vines on the two oldest Sunmuscat sites have had a severe “talking to” because they are not performing



Leading the way The Australian Prune Industry Association is looking to invest in new training opportunities for its members thanks to an extension of the industry’s leadership project.

secure these funds and it’s important

on business management and related

that we use them wisely,” he said.


APIA was awarded $159,000 in

what other activities should we be

late 2017 to help reinvigorate the

considering for the benefit of all

Australian prune industry to ensure its


viability and sustainability.

“APIA is keen to identify additional training activities that would interest all members and we would like to hear your ideas. “How can APIA improve the proposed activities for young growers, and

APIA deputy chair Michael Zalunardo

- Women in Leadership Australia’s Executive Ready course.

Director training One of the first activities undertaken was a Foundations of Directorship training course. In late May 2019, 12 executive and ordinary members completed the three-day course conducted by the AICD. Michael said the training looked at

The grant was funded under the

said it was vital that APIA continued

Commonwealth Government’s

to develop leadership capability

Leadership in Agricultural Industries

to facilitate further growth of the

Fund with the objective of assisting

industry and assist growers to

“I found it really interesting, and while

agricultural industry bodies to develop

maximise profitability, ensuring the

the course was tailored towards

leadership capacity and capability

industry’s sustainability into the future.

directors, a lot of the information will

within their organisations and across their industries.

Michael said while a couple of the funded activities hadn’t yet been

three main areas – governance, finance and strategy, and risk for directors.

be of value in my own farm operations,” he said.

However, with COVID-19 bringing

completed, many of the opportunities

“For example, the course covered

the nation to a standstill, and social

had been embraced by the industry.

learning how to interpret financial

gathering and travel restrictions still in place in some areas, APIA and other grant recipients have been unable to complete key components of the approved leadership activities. A welcome extension of the completion date for all leadership grant projects, to 30 June 2021, was announced by the Minister for Agriculture in April this year. APIA secretary Phil Chidgzey said the extension would enable APIA to arrange a domestic field trip for up to 10 young producers to travel and learn from other industry role models. Phil said funds had also been approved for two young growers to participate in business training, and invited interested growers to contact him with details of the course they would like to complete. “APIA has been very fortunate to


APIA’s approved leadership training activities included: - Training through the Australian

statements, identifying key causes of strategic risk and how those risks can best be treated, and using that knowledge to make more effective

Institute of Company Directors


(AICD) for up to nine executive and responsibilities, leadership,

Masterclass in Horticultural Business

governance, risk and strategy, finance

The Masterclass in Horticultural

members focusing on director roles

and management relations - Two scholarships for young prune growers to undertake a Masterclass in Horticultural Business at the University of Tasmania - A domestic field trip for up to 10 young producers to learn from industry role models - Business training and field trip opportunities for two young growers - Engaging local and international

Business at the University of Tasmania is specifically designed so participants gain leadership and management skills that will enable them to take their business to the next level. The course is offered through flexible online delivery and normally involves three two-day face-to-face intensives, although this hasn’t been possible in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Craig Tropeano received the first of two APIA scholarships.

speakers to address industry

“The course was interesting, covering

members at APIA annual conferences

a wide range of subjects related to


running a horticultural business and

“The course was delivered through a

Wilkie to talk about his research with

providing access to a wide network of

sophisticated blend of face-to-face

the Australian macadamia industry.

growers in industries that I wouldn’t

workshops, interactive webinars, peer

normally interact with,” Craig said.

coaching and self-directed learning,”

“The course was well organised and flexible enough to deal with farm workload commitments.

Jane said. “It was really well-run and I would highly recommend it to other women in the industry.”

“I have gained skills which have been

Conference guest speakers

very useful in weighing the viability

Michael said the leadership funds had

of changes to our farming operation and for fine-tuning existing business practices. The business plan I developed during the course has been a great help when dealing with financial providers and gives us a clear path for the future of the business.” APIA’s most recent scholarship recipient, Samuel Raciti, has found it difficult juggling three jobs and studying at the same time but has enjoyed learning about horticultural business. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has meant Samuel’s cohort couldn’t travel to the Sunshine Coast for face-to-face meetings and on-farm tours this year, but he is still revelling in the knowledge and skillset he is gaining. “It has taught me how to better manage our family business in relation to producing and marketing our products,” he said. “The potential benefits could

enabled APIA to engage international and local guest speakers to address

manager Andre Estrella, who spoke about their branded products and approach in different markets. v Phil Chidgzey APIA national secretariat

2019 APIA Annual Conferences. “In 2018, Donn Zea – the executive director of the California Dried Prune Board – spoke about the world prune market outlook and CDPB’s strategic approach to raising prune consumption,” he said. “Donn also addressed leadership matters and provided this advice to up and coming leaders in the prune industry: ‘Be generous with your time and resources with employees, customers, partnerships and associations; provide opportunities for people to grow; listen and strive to understand; never stop learning and applying knowledge; make your mission customer driven rather than company driven; get out of your own comfort zone and nurture the next generation of leaders’.”

new land, contracting, new equipment

Michael said APIA chose local

Women leaders

Michael Bartholomew and senior brand

industry members at the 2018 and

involve expanding our business through or creating our own product.”

Other speakers included Sabrands CEO

Above: Donn Zea from the California Dried Prune Board was a guest speaker at APIA’s 2018 Annual Conference

speakers in 2019, inviting Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries principal horticulturist John

The Executive Ready course run by Women & leadership Australia ran for seven months from September 2019 to March 2020. Jane McCorkell, APIA’s industry development officer at the time, used leadership funds to complete the course.



Early days, new adventures When Fairview Orchards director Michael Shakes says it’s “early days” for his far north Queensland farm, he means it. Not only did he complete his first ever harvest this year, one year after planting vines of Arra 15, but – courtesy of the far north Queensland climate – they’ve seen one of Australia’s earliest picks. In August, Mike and his team harvested their first lot of grapes from 39,000 vines of Arra 15 (ARRA Sweeties™).

grape grower purchasing 160 acres at Dimbulah, 45 minutes southwest of Mareeba, and 1.5 hours from Cairns.

knowing very little about table

“We acquired a block of land – went and bought 160 acres – and thought, ‘what are we going to do with this?’” Mike said. “The area was growing. Dimbulah is warmer than Atherton or Mareeba.

a husband and wife from Western

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I need to do something different’.”

degree from a New Zealand

Mike had been importing grapes for his supermarket and had customers approaching him asking, “How come I have to eat this American stuff?”

It was a bold move that led to the

Against advice and other growers calling him “crazy”, Mike said it was

supermarket owner-turned-table

time to “have a crack”, despite initially


grapes. “Fortunately I was introduced to Australia who knew a lot about grapes, nothing tropical, but they had a background,” Mike said. Using his background in horticulture – Mike completed a horticultural university, and experience working in a variety of horticulture industries – Mike, along with his farm managers, and a number of family members who have since become involved in the family business, developed everything from scratch. Mike admitted it was a costly process.


“It’s still early,” he said. “You could

lessons over the past year, Mike isn’t

would tell you to expect” to yield their

invest a lot of money and lose it all.

short of enthusiasm. His tenacity and

first ever table grape crop.

“Set up costs are high – it costs twice as much to grow them because you’ve

willingness to give things a try are what has brought him success in life.

got to prune twice, pick twice, if you

His independent supermarket has won

want to pick a summer crop of it.

the best IGA in the country twice.

“No one is going to do this in a hurry.”

Thankfully, Mike has the support

Despite there being only a small amount of table grape growers in the area, Mike continues to plug away, trying new things, and has just planted 80–90 acres of Sheehan varieties. He acknowledged, though, that not only was table grape production expensive, but doing so in far north Queensland was an entirely different beast. “Downy mildew is killing us up here,” he said. “We’re a long way from the coast but it’s warm and humid.” There are some regrets that Mike has had – hand-thinning tight bunches was one.

of his family – his two daughters, one son, and sons-in-law, some of

One thing is certain – this harvest has been one they’ll never forget, and hopefully the first of many. v Left: Industry newcomer Dean with his workers harvest their first boxes of grapes. Below: Mike and Dean are one year into table grape growing in Far North Queensland.

whom work or are about to work in his supermarket and others who are transitioning to the farm. Mike’s son-in-law Dean has been shadowing the Fairview Orchards farm managers Danny and Heina, learning the ropes, after leaving his role as a builder. “Everything is so different,” Dean said. “It’s really good to learn off Danny and Heina and they’ve had a lot of experience with the grapes.” The Fairview Orchards team has overcome literal lightning strikes – which killed hundreds of vines –

Though he might have had some

tropical weather conditions and other

difficult learning experiences and life

“teething problems other farmers



Collaborative farming in focus Can we work together? That’s the biggest question growers need to consider when going into business with someone else, according to collaborative farming innovator and advocate John Gladigau. John delivered this advice, discussing the benefits and challenges of farmer collaboration, as part of Dried Fruits Australia’s new event series, We’re Growing Live. Online events were held across the month of October, taking the place of DFA’s traditional grower forum. Growers also heard from GrowCare’s Peter Magarey on DFA’s new downy and powdery mildew alert system; processors Sunbeam Foods, Australian Premium Dried Fruits and Murray River Organics on the 2020 harvest; and Rachael McClintock from Sheehan Genetics on new dried grape varieties. The presentations are now available to watch on the DFA YouTube channel.

Farming’s “sexiest” topic John likely holds the record for the most speaking engagements of


any Nuffield scholar in at least the last decade. Thirteen years after he travelled the world on a scholarship from Nuffield Australia, looking at some of the best collaborative businesses, people still want to know about it. “Collaboration is still a really sexy topic, but it’s one thing to talk about it and another to take the big step do it,” he said. “We believe it’s been well worth it, and others who’ve done it would say the same, but it’s the perception of what you’re giving up – the perception that you’re giving up your freedom, your independence and your flexibility. “But the things people believe constrain us or see as negatives, we’d actually say are the biggest positives – we have created more flexibility and freedom for ourselves.” It’s been 12 years since John and his wife Bronwyn, in partnership with Robin and Rebecca Schaefer, formed Bulla Burra – a collaborative family farm in Loxton and Alawoona, South Australia. They are now cropping about 8500 hectares annually, with a legume and cereal focus.

John said the key drivers for creating Bulla Burra were economics and efficiency. However, looking back now, he said it’s the people and relationships that stand out as the biggest benefits. “Setting up the right collaborative model gives you great potential to increase efficiency and profitability,” John said. “It also allows you to work in areas of the business that you’re passionate about. Within a collaborative business, you can be involved in the area where you add the most value. For me, that’s the marketing, the finance, the people side. Whereas for Robin, it’s the practical side – he likes to be out in the soil every day. “Robin and I also have our weekends back, we take four weeks of annual leave, and don’t tend to work public holidays. It’s up to the business to ensure everything gets done.” John said the business also shared its decision making, so the burden of creating strategies and dealing with day-to-day decisions and emotional issues doesn’t rest on one person or one family.


R EC O R D ATTEN DA N C E F OR I N TER N ATI O N A L C O N F ER EN C E A record number of people attended the first online International Seedless Dried Grape Producing Countries Conference. About 70 participants, including delegations from Argentina, Australia, Chile, Greece, Iran, South Africa, Turkey and the United States, met on October 15 to exchange information on world production and the marketing of dried grapes.

However, to be successful, John advises growers not to rush into setting up a collaborative business. “You actually need to spend 18 months doing it properly because part of the process is figuring out how you’re going to work together,” he said. “Despite all the benefits, there’s a reason why not every business in the world has done it – it’s because of the emotional hurdles. Just about every collaborative business that has failed has done so because of emotions and personalities. Emotions are the biggest threat to any collaborative business. “There’s lots of things you can put in place to ensure you can work together, but unless you have shared values and can form an effective working relationship, it’s just not going to be successful.” v

The conference considered the world supply and demand position, noting dried grape production from the sultana/natural seedless raisin decreased by 1.1 per cent, while overall supply increased by 1 per cent due to carryovers.

AG M Dried Fruits Australia’s AGM is also going online this year. The COVID-friendly event will be held at 1pm on 27 November. More information will be sent out to DFA members.

Carryover stocks are still relatively low, compared to the early 2000s, but it will be possible to supply normal market demands. The 60th annual conference was meant to be held in Greece, but the face-to-face meeting was cancelled due to COVID-19. The 2021 conference is planned for Turkey or Greece.



Insights 2019/ 20 E XPO RT S EAS O N H I G H L I G H TS

Table grape exports have increased over 400 per cent since the low of 2010/11, now reaching a record-breaking volume of 152,200 tonnes, valued at $623 million.* WHO’S BUYING MY FRUIT?





Malaysia 3%

Thailand 5%





Vietnam 5%

South Korea 5%

Japan 8%

Indonesia 9%



Hong Kong 6%


$ per kg

LEADING THE WAY China was firmly the leading market by volume and value for the season and lifted 12 per cent to $270M.


152,200 tonnes

$623 million





+7.6% 0.29c

South Korea increased 152 per cent to $44M into 4thposition (by value) and Philippines lifted 15 per cent $30M. Middle East markets posted gains of more than 85 per cent off low bases. * These statistics presented are calculated in the same format as previous years. They are used for similar presentations for other industries, which enables year to year comparison between horticulture industries.


Dried grape trade report Dried grape import and export statistics for a six-month period from January to July 2020.



10,000 9,000







United States









South Africa

























































United Kingdom






Hong Kong


500 400 300 200 100 0































2020 Quantity: 14,534 t Value: $43,251,442

2019 Quantity: 11,045 t Value: $31,873,372

2018 Quantity: 11,989 t Value: $25,299,949


2020 Quantity: 2552 t Value: $12,219,579

2019 Quantity: 2892 t Value: $16,381,520

2018 Quantity: 2823 t Value: $12,074,877

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics



Varieties to watch For many international buyers of Australian table grapes, it’s all about new. The ATGA’s best estimate is that new grape varieties make up 20 per cent of export volume, but also achieve higher unit price return than the original public varieties. We spoke to Sun World’s licensing manager Adam Knoll and Sheehan Genetics Australia general manager Rachael McClintock to get a sneak peek of some new and upcoming varieties to the Australian market.

SHEEGENE 18 (KELLY) A popular variety in Spain and Italy due to its ease of growing and production, Kelly is a mid-tolate season green seedless. “Consumers and buyers are attracted to the flavour and size of Kelly, while growers are attracted to Kelly due to the ease of growing and resistance to rain late in the season,” Rachael said. With crisp large berries and lovely flavour, Kelly extends the green seedless supply season and stores well. Both Kelly and Carlita varieties are gaining strong interest within Australia with new and existing Sheehan growers due to their unique characteristics. Kelly is due to be released for commercial plantings in winter 2021.

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An elegant large pink/red grape in shape and colour, Carlita’s texture and flavour have shown excellent potential for export market opportunities, with “buyers attracted to the crispness, colour and crunch”, according to Rachael.

Sun World’s Sugrafortythree is an ultra-late green seedless grape new to the Australian market.

“Carlita is easy to grow with a loose bunch structure that reduces disease issues during the growing season,” Rachael said. “It’s a very unique variety gaining international attraction with buyers.” Having been trialled and researched in Sunraysia over the past few seasons (released 2018), this mid-to-late season alternative to Crimson is now available for commercial plantings.

Its naturally large berries – up to 26mm without GA – have a firm crisp texture, a “hallmark of this exciting new variety”, according to Adam. Sugrafortythree’s “milky green” berries are harvested mid-tolate April, satisfying primarily the domestic market. With a variety stem that stays green at room temperature longer than other varieties, Sugrafortythree’s extended shelf life helps growers “overcome supply constraints, until winter transition when new season imports are available”, Adam said.

SUGRAFORTYNINE (SOLD UNDER MIDNIGHT BEAUTY® BRAND) An ultra-early black seedless variety, Sun World’s Sugrafortynine is currently being trialled in Australia, having been well-received globally. Commercial plantings of this “grower friendly variety similar to Sugrathirteen (MIDNIGHT BEAUTY® brand)” will begin in the 2021–22 season. Harvested in Australia in November for Queensland growers and early January in Sunraysia, three weeks before Sugrathirteen, Sugrafortynine produces fully black elongated berries, firm and juicy with a hint of tropical flavours. It has medium to high vigour, with a large broad loose 650g cluster.

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The future of dried grapes The evaluation of CSIRO dried grape and rootstock breeding lines will be completed over the next four years as part of a new project, supported by Hort Innovation. The dried grape scion and rootstock evaluation program (DG19000) aims to minimise the risks of dried fruit production through the development of early maturing, consistently high yielding, rain tolerant dried grape varieties and new rootstocks, which maintain adequate productivity under limited water supply and are also resistant to soil-borne pests such as root-knot nematode and grape phylloxera. New rain tolerant drying varieties will enable the industry to minimise yield and quality losses and address the issue of mould and Ochratoxin A development. Early ripening varieties, which mature earlier in the season than Sunmuscat and Sunglo, will reduce risks associated with less favourable drying conditions at the end of the season. In the previous project, 46 seedless selections, which showed potential for drying, were grafted on Ramsey rootstock and established on a swingarm trellis to assess their performance under modern management practices. In 2020, most were close to full bearing, with the performance of 35 selections evaluated by trellis drying. Maturity dates for these selections ranged from early February to early March. The drying process was delayed due to a number of rain events, which led to significant browning and darkening of the dried product and a late harvest in May. Key criteria for assessment


include yield, time of maturity and appearance, colour and berry size uniformity and absence of noticeable seed traces in the dried product. Examples of the dried fruit product, showing a range of berry sizes, are shown. Selections not meeting key criteria will be culled to reduce the number for ongoing evaluation in future seasons. Rootstocks are a key component of integrated management systems for dried grape production, which maximise production efficiency, resource utilisation and, hence, economic sustainability. The new rootstocks will provide alternatives to the main commercial rootstocks (1103 Paulsen and Ramsey) used for dried grape production in Australia. They will maintain adequate productivity under deficit irrigation regimes and provide resistance to soil borne pests such as root knot nematode and grape phylloxera. In the rootstock studies, performance of new genotypes is compared to standard commercial rootstocks (Ramsey, 1103 Paulsen and 140 Ruggeri) at two trial sites. The vines at both sites are managed on a modern high cordon-based, hanging cane system. The rootstocks are grafted with Carina, Sultana and Sunmuscat and drip irrigated with either “full” (7.5 Ml/ha) or “sustained deficit” (3.3 Ml/ ha) treatments. The first site is a young planting, established in 2014–15, which produced the first crop in 2018. It includes nine new rootstock genotypes, selected in long-term screening studies when grafted with Sunmuscat. The second trial site, established in 2011–12, involves evaluation of the long-term performance of high potential “near-to-release selections”.

This trial includes the C114 rootstock, identified for release to industry in related wine grape studies. At the first site, the results across scions and rootstocks, recorded since 2018, have shown that the deficit irrigation treatment compared to full irrigation significantly reduced yield by 23 per cent, sugar per vine by 25 per cent, bunch numbers by 13 per cent and berry weight by 8 per cent. But it had had no effect on berries per bunch (i.e. fruit set) or maturity. Overall, there was a 4.5-fold difference in yield across the rootstock genotypes ranging from 7.0 to 31.4 kg/vine. The highest yielding rootstock was a new genotype that outperformed the standard commercial rootstocks by 19 to 31 per cent and maintained productivity under deficit irrigation. Although the vines are still young, this genotype offers significant potential to both enhance overall productivity and maintain productivity under limited water supply if its performance is maintained in the longer term. Long term yield data (2014–2020) presented in Table 1 from the second trial, compares the performance of the two most promising “near to release rootstock” genotypes with the standards. Over the seven seasons, the mean yield of both new rootstock genotypes (C114 and R3331) was not significantly different to the standard rootstocks. Furthermore, both new genotypes maintained high productivity under limited water supply. A significant interaction between scion variety and rootstock indicates that some rootstocks may be more suited to a specific variety than others. For example, lowest yields of


Carina and Sunmuscat were produced when grafted on 140 Ruggeri and for Sultana on 1103 Paulsen. The results confirm that C114 is well suited not only to wine production, but also for dried grape production. Processes for the naming and industry release of C114 with Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) protection are in place, with source material established by licensed nurseries. For R3331, it is planned to establish plantings of source material in spring 2021 and collect PBR comparator data to underpin a future PBR submission. v For further information, contact Peter Clingeleffer at

Pictured: Three dried grape selections (trellis dried in 2020) showing different berry sizes.

Table 1. Mean yield (kg/vine) of five rootstocks grafted with Carina, Sultana and Sunmuscat and managed under two irrigation regimes (full and deficit) over seven harvest seasons (2014–2020). Effects of deficit irrigation on mean yield of each rootstock is shown as a percentage of the full irrigation treatment.



















































This update has been provided by the evaluation project team – Peter Clingeleffer, David Emanuelli, Hilary Davis, Arryn Clarke and Harley Smith from CSIRO Agriculture and Food.



Max potential for microvine

Year-round supply, boutique “super grape” breeding, disease-resistant varieties and sustainable production on a small scale. This is just some of the commercial potential and versatility of a new microvine developed by CSIRO scientists. What began as a project almost 20 years ago looking at French wine grape variety Pinot Meunier now underpins a breeding program which sees the CSIRO scientists creating disease-resistant wine grape varieties. More recently, though, they’ve successfully crossed the microvine with table grape varieties to produce seedless grapes with a range of


flavours and colours.

So it was named the microvine.

“The project started in the early 2000s with work by two CSIRO scientists, Mark Thomas and Paul Boss,” CSIRO project lead Ian Dry said. “They were aware that the old French variety Pinot Meunier, which is used for champagne production, had a naturally occurring mutation in the layer of cells that cover the plant – this is called the L1 or epidermal layer.

Secondly, the plant flowered very quickly.

“They took Pinot Meunier and they put it through tissue culture, and they were able to to regenerate a grapevine only from cells from the epidermal layer, rather than the entire Pinot Meunier plant.” The team discovered a few interesting things about the L1 plant. Firstly, it had very short internodes which meant it was dwarf in stature.

“Normally if you took a grapevine and grew it from seed, for example, it would take two–three years for it to show flowers, but this flowered as quite a small plant,” Ian said. “So you get flowers from three–four months, and then fruit on it within six months – it had no juvenile period like you find with most woody perennial crops.” Thirdly, every tendril on the vine was floral – instead of just the lower one–two tendrils on each shoot. “As the shoot grew, it just continually produced bunches instead of tendrils! You would get more flowers and more bunches, so if you grow a continuous shoot, you would have a continuous series of bunches,” Ian said.


Interestingly, the genetic mutation which causes the phenotypic change in the microvine goes by the name of the “green revolution gene”, which dates back to the evolution of cereal production in the 1960s. “They actually discovered some naturally occurring mutations in the cereal population that had short stalks, and when they discovered these, they used these in the breeding program because it meant that there was much less chance of “lodging” which is when the plant collapses under the weight of its grain. This is why cereals are now short, rather than tall and wavy,” Ian said. Ian said the gene was involved in the perception of one of the plant hormones – gibberellic acid (GA) which table grape growers use for berry elongation. In the case of the microvine, Ian said the gene has mutated so the plant no longer perceives the GA, meaning rather than cell elongation occurring, the opposite occurs, with a dwarf plant forming. However, quite unexpectedly, Ian said this mutation also had a major impact on flowering in the microvine. “What it told us was that GA has quite a significant role in regulating flowering and fruiting in grapevine, quite separate from its role in cell elongation, which table grape growers use to change berry size,” Ian said. “ GA actually has a very important role in the suppression of flowering in grapevine.”

there’s an opportunity here to utilise these interesting characteristics for a paradigm-shift in table grape production, particularly undercover cropping or indoor farming’,” Ian said. Despite the convenience of being grown in a pot and hydroponically, the phenotype of the microvine still requires the normal growing conditions so that it won’t go into dormancy. So CSIRO researchers then set about transforming the original microvine, which was derived from a wine grape variety, into a table grape by introducing traits like seedlessness, large berries, flavours and sugar and acid balance, to produce black, red and white seedless grapes.

“We’ve also been making some rather interesting table grape varieties that have really high levels of anthocyanin (a flavonoid which creates the red pigment in fruit),” Ian said. “I guess there might be an opportunity to market that from a health perspective, because anthocyanins act as antioxidants, which are quite important for health, so they could be marketed as a super grape.” Regardless of whether it’s a super grape, a disease-resistant variety (beneficial in a time of La Niña), or simply the ability to grow grapes anywhere in the world, all year round, CSIRO’s microvine could mean maximum potential. v

By crossing the microvine with Crimson Seedless, for example, the progeny picked up the microvine phenotype, but also inherited the characteristics from its table grape parent. “So now we have plants that combine all of those things together and we’ve got what we would almost term a table grape version of the microvine,” Ian said. “It still shows the same characteristics, like dwarf stature and rapid and continuous flowering, but now it also shows more table grape characteristics like seedlessness, large berries and flavours and aromas you would associate with table grapes.

Having used the microvine to speed up wine grape breeding, the initial researchers started looking for other opportunities.

This capability meant the CSIRO could take existing table grape varieties and cross them with powdery and downy mildew-resistant microvine parents that had been developed as part of the wine grape breeding program, to produce disease-resistant table grapes.

“We’ve been using it as a breeding tool to speed up wine grape breeding and then, having done that, Mark then thought ‘I wonder whether

Ian also said they were also producing grapes with red flesh, which had the potential to be marketed from a health perspective as a “super food”.

This page and opposite: CSIRO scientists have developed a potted or hydroponically grown microvine which can be crossed with table grape varieties to create new varieties and disease-resistant strains of existing varieties. Images: CSIRO

So now we have plants that combine all of those things together and we’ve got what we would almost term a table grape version of the microvine...



High priority exotic pest threats PIER CE’S D I S E AS E A N D T H E G L AS SY- WI N G ED S H A R P S H O OTER

It’s earned the title of Australia’s number one priority plant pest, so Xylella fastidiosa (xylella) needs very little introduction. Pierce’s disease is a serious disease of grapevines caused by the xylella bacteria, which lives in the water conducting system (xylem) of the grapevine. Xylella can be spread by xylemfeeding leafhoppers like the glassywinged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis, GWSS). While the GWSS causes direct damage to grapevines through its feeding activities, the greatest threat posed by this pest is its ability to efficiently spread xylella. Neither xylella nor GWSS are found in Australia.

Symptoms of Pierce’s disease Plants infected by Pierce’s disease show symptoms of water stress, which include browning and loss of


leaves, lignification of canes and fruit raisining. The characteristic symptom, leaf scorch, is seen in late summer and autumn and includes marginal leaf scorch (browning) that is frequently bordered by a red or yellow halo. The outer leaf area may dry suddenly while the rest of the leaf remains green. Affected leaves are less vigorous and smaller than healthy leaves. Ultimately, entire leaves may turn brown and drop, leaving the petioles attached to the plant. Shoot growth of infected plants progressively weakens, and the tips of canes and roots may die back. Symptoms are usually more obvious in grapevines that are stressed by high temperatures or drought conditions. Flower clusters on infected grapevines may set berries, but they usually dry out before reaching maturity. Diseased stems often mature irregularly with patches of green and brown tissue, known as “green islands”, becoming visible.

Symptoms of Pierce’s disease can be confused with chloride (salt) toxicity, drought symptoms or herbicide injury.

Appearance and signs of GWSS Adult GWSS are about 12–14 mm long, dark brown to black with a lighter underside. The upper parts of the head and back are stippled with ivory or yellowish spots, with wings that are partly transparent with reddish veins. Watery excrement often collects on either side of the insect, appearing as large white spots. While feeding causes no visible signs of damage, copious amounts of liquid is excreted that can make leaves, stems and fruit appear white-washed when dry. Clutches of up to 27 eggs are laid on the underside of leaves in a sideby-side arrangement. The clutches are dusted with a layer of whitish powder. After hatching they change in appearance from green watery blisters to tan to brown scars on the leaves.


Egg masses are usually found on recently expanded foliage, while older foliage has the distinctive scars left after the eggs have hatched.

- check your vineyard frequently for the presence of new pests and investigate any sick grapevines for unusual symptoms

Protecting your vineyard

- make sure you are familiar with common grapevine pests so you can tell if you see something different

Xylella is transmitted by grafting infected propagation material onto healthy rootstocks and by xylemfeeding leafhoppers like the GWSS. Adult GWSS are strong fliers and can move rapidly from plant to plant. Nymphs are wingless but can walk and jump through the canopy or drop from plants and walk to new hosts. However, most rapid and longdistance movement occurs through the transfer of eggs on nursery stock of either crop or ornamental plants. To protect your vineyard against Pierce’s disease: - ensure all staff and visitors adhere to on farm biosecurity and hygiene practices

- report anything unusual. If you have noticed anything unusual in your vineyard call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881. v

Xylella is just one of 240 plant pests and diseases of concern identified in the new Biosecurity Plan for Viticulture Industries. Recently endorsed by the table grape, dried fruit and wine grape peak industry bodies, the plan is a roadmap designed to prepare industry for plant pest incursions and improve on-farm biosecurity practices.

This series from Plant Health Australia features exotic pests that would survive, spread and establish in Australian vineyards should they get through border quarantine controls. Growers should be familiar with their appearance and symptoms so that they can distinguish them from the pests that they normally encounter.

Opposite page: Adult glassy-winged sharpshooter on leaf surface. Image: Johnny N. Dell, This page, left: “Green islands” on a grapevine cane, surrounded by brown necrotic lesions caused by Pierce’s disease infection. Image: John Hartman, University of Kentucky, Right: Pierce’s disease reduces productivity and eventually results in the death of the infected grapevines. Image: Alex. H. Purcell, University of California – Berkeley,

- source high health status (preferably certified) plant material from reliable and accredited suppliers



Notifying process F O R F RU I T F LY L A RVA E I N P R O D U C E S EN T I N TER STATE

If you trade produce interstate you may have wondered what would happen if live fruit fly larvae were found in one of your consignments at its final destination. Chair of the subcommittee on domestic quarantine and market access Rodney Turner said there is a nationally agreed process for reporting and investigating incidents like the detection of live fruit fly larvae in produce certified to meet interstate quarantine requirements. This process is outlined in the Rules for Operation of the Interstate Certification Assurance (ICA) Scheme. The process not only applies to produce certified under the ICA scheme, but also produce which has been either certified by a government inspector or by a business operating a non-ICA accreditation arrangement.

The process Rodney has broken down the incident reporting and investigation process followed by state and territory governments when live fruit fly larvae are detected into four main steps. “A certain amount of time is allocated to each step but the process generally happens quicker so that detections or suspect detections are dealt with as soon as possible,” he said. Step 1: Confirm fruit fly was found “If a suspect detection of live fruit fly is made in your consignment in another state or territory with quarantine restrictions in place for the pest, the first step is for them to confirm it is live fruit fly which has been found,” Rodney said. “A suspect detection of live fruit fly may be reported to another state prior to confirming live fruit fly has been found.


“Reporting a suspect detection puts the state or territory the produce originated from on notice of a possible critical incident.” The suspect specimen will be transferred to an accredited laboratory for identification under secure conditions to ensure its integrity. Step 2: Report a detection to the jurisdiction which the consignment is from (up to 5 days) “Once the presence of live fruit fly is confirmed, the state or territory which made the detection has up to five days to notify the state or territory from which the consignment originated in the form of an Incident Report,” Rodney said. “Though they have five days it usually happens within 24 hours. “At the same time, the state or territory receiving the produce would take steps to contain and secure the detection such as removing product from shelves and tracing the produce back to its point of origin.” “Steps may also be taken to contain produce consigned immediately prior to the detection and any consigned after.” Step 3: Initiate investigation (up to 5 days) “Once your state or territory receives the Incident Report they must start a formal investigation into the incident within five days,” Rodney said. “Within 30 days of receiving the Incident Report, your state or territory also has to reply with an Investigation Report. “Your state agricultural department will conduct an audit to determine where the breakdown in treatment may have occurred by examining critical control points and assessing treatment, packaging and transport processes.”

Step 4: Notify the consigning business “Once your state or territory is notified and the detection of live fruit fly is confirmed, they will contact the business that consigned the produce interstate,” Rodney said. “If you were not the consignor and your produce was distributed through another business (e.g. a produce market agent), you may be contacted by either the consignor of the produce or your state agriculture department. “As the consignor of the produce is responsible for ensuring quarantine requirements are met, you will not normally be notified of the incident by your state or territory government.” “If the investigation finds that the produce failed to conform with the receiving state or territory’s quarantine requirements, the consignor may be suspended from sending produce until appropriate action is taken to prevent an incident happening again.” Rodney said that if a business is suspended from sending produce, it may use an alternative quarantine entry requirement to continue trade to fruit fly restricted interstate markets.

The future Plant Health Committee, which includes each state and territory chief plant health manager, is working with industry to consider how the efficiency of the process could be improved to ensure growers are notified as soon as practicable. v For more information about the ICA scheme visit www.



Meeting growers and exploring more of the Mildura region will be top of the agenda for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s newest staff members as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease. Mildura is home to one of the new

a range of the MDBA’s operating areas, from river management, modelling, salinity and groundwater to procurement, media and compliance.

and assist where we can,” she said. “We also have a regional engagement officer, Richard Unsworth, who is based in Menindee and serves the Lower

“We are over halfway to filling the

Darling region. Our area extends from

Mildura office, with 14 staff onboard,”

the Lower Darling through Sunraysia,

Di said. “Many are locals, and some,

the Mallee and Wimmera, and once

such as Owen Russell, Tyson Milne and

restrictions allow we will be active

Andrew Kremor, will already be well

throughout the region.”

known to growers.”

While COVID has delayed plans to

regional offices the MDBA is currently

Di is among some new faces to the

formally open the Mildura office in

establishing throughout the basin,

region, having been with the MDBA for

Deakin Avenue and required the team

along with Griffith and Murray Bridge.

more than 10 years and relocating from

to work remotely, MDBA staff are

The MDBA already has more than 70


still available and happy to answer

staff members working in regional locations and, by the middle of next year, will have more than 100 staff outside of Canberra.

“Tyson and I were pleased to attend the irrigation seminar that Dried Fruits Australia presented online in July and, as COVID conditions ease, we will get

MDBA Mildura regional manager Di

out to more industry events to hear

Mead said the local team now covered

what issues are of concern to growers

questions or address concerns. v Growers can get in touch with Di on (02) 6279 0129 or Tyson on (02) 6279 0645 or at



Chemical knowledge critical AU ST RA L I A N P R EM I U M D R I ED F R U I TS

An important and regular conversation we have with our growers is regarding changes to approved chemicals for dried grape production. It is not always the most interesting of topics, but it is one of the more critical conversations when it comes to growing a product that attracts the best premiums on offer. In today’s world, where food safety is paramount to achieving a premium, every contributor to the supply chain must have a strong understanding of the chemical regulations for their product. The grower – as the first and main contributor to the product – has the highest responsibility of all. Growers must regularly spend time educating themselves on chemical guidelines to avoid any catastrophic outcomes with fruit not meeting maximum residue limits (MRLs). As Europe is consistently our industry’s largest and highest price market, all industry stakeholders (including APDF) use the EU standard as the guidelines for MRLs. These guidelines are provided each season in the Dried Fruits Australia spray diary, which we (as active DFA and industry members)

contribute to and fully support. It is important for growers to understand that the chemical guidelines are not set by industry or processors, but by the market of the most important customer. Our aim, as growers and processors alike, should always be to produce product of the highest standard, which can, most importantly, also achieve the highest return. While key chemicals have been removed for human safety and environmental reasons, it has made dried grape farming more challenging. Some of the best practices we see to combat the removal of certain chemicals are from growers who concentrate heavily on vine and soil health. A very healthy plant and soil create an excellent immune system to combat or minimise many of the pest and disease issues we can experience in the vineyard. Some chemicals will always assist in conventional high yield production, but the science of plant and soil health is a great topic to invest time in and we encourage growers to keep looking at new developments and techniques. At our Wargan Road factory, we are hoping to pack out the balance of the challenging 2020-season fruit by

Christmas this year. Unfortunately, our yield losses have been much higher than expected, which is due to the overall fruit quality received. The wet weather during the drying season created lower grades and much more fruit of high moisture requiring dehydration. The 2020 season fruit has deteriorated more quickly compared to the previous two seasons, so this has seen 2–3 per cent higher losses overall. Damaged berries, adhering leaf, embedded stalk and blobs are also increased in years of wet weather during harvest. We know it is very costly for growers when weather is not favourable, but it continues to flow onto the processor in extra losses during production. Fingers crossed for a much better season ahead. The vines around the district look to have responded well to the good early conditions in spring, with signs of Thompson sultanas being quite fruitful. Good luck to everyone for a successful growing season and a return to fantastic quality for the 2021 harvest. Hopefully we see further lifting of COVID-19 restrictions so we can hold our annual pre-harvest grower meeting, where we will supply further updates on our business along with a social chat over dinner and a cold drink. APDF is still committed to growing our supply, so any existing or new growers are encouraged to contact Larry to discuss partnering with us into the future.v Grower enquiries: Grower liaison officer Larry Dichiera | 0408 054 517 Pictured: APDF processing staff hard at work.



Season of promise S U N B E A M F O O D S & A N G AS PA R K

After the significant second spike of COVID-19 in Victoria, it is nice to be getting back somewhere closer to normal life. While travel restrictions continue, the optimism of a lessening in our COVID-19 controlled environment has the dark clouds lifting from everyone. The emergence of a new crop also brings promise and enthusiasm to our vine fruit, prune and tree fruit growers.

Dried vine fruit In reviewing the 2020 season, one of the most pleasing aspects of the challenging season was the very low level of deductions that were applied to the fruit. Excluding moisture, the levels of stalk and stem, waste, mould and damaged fruit were minimal. This is a result of growers acting quickly and responding to the weather conditions appropriately. This is a real strength of our grower base and shows that the correct management techniques are being applied. The 2020 export marketing campaign was a case of trying to stretch the available fruit as far as possible. As the crop was down and the colour was more to the brown grades, this left a shortage of product to fulfil the increasing export demand. Sunbeam Foods international trading manager Thomas Cheung said demand from emerging markets was still growing, particularly for Sunmuscat in China. Mr Cheung said the reputation of “Australian Golden Sultanas” as premium quality fruit was rapidly expanding in the Chinese market. “COVID-19 has not affected demand, but it has so far affected our logistics, causing extended transit periods and shipment delays,” he said. “Our competition is mainly coming from South Africa. Orange River production has increased approximately 62 per cent from last season and its significant growth is becoming our main threat in the

forthcoming years – to our European market in particular.”

2021 crop There has been a very even budburst this year and bunch numbers are up on 2020. This is a good start. Water allocations and pricing are in a better position and the weather has been favourable so far with some winter and spring rainfall. The Dried Fruits Australia spray diaries have been distributed and it is vital that growers adhere to the approved list of chemicals. The chemical-use landscape continues to change and, even since the printing of this season’s diary, another chemical has been removed due to restrictions in the European Union. Chlorothalonil, which was used for the control of black spot, Botrytis bunch rot and downy mildew, has been removed from the approved chemicals list. Growers should be aware of this and adjust their spray programs accordingly.


good start to the season. The apricot processing equipment at Loxton is undertaking a major refurbishment that will improve the speed and efficiency significantly. To maximise the benefits of this work, we are looking to take more fresh apricots into our drying facility this season. A new pricing schedule is in place that reflects better returns for better dry ratio fruit. If you would like to explore this arrangement, please contact Luke Fitzsimmons (details below).v Enquiries: Supply manager dried fruit David Swain | 0407 834 044 Field officer (including SA) Alan Lister | 0409 437 801 Field officer Gary Simpson | 0429 960 234 Dried tree fruit operations manager (Loxton) Luke Fitzsimmons | 0431 894 515

Prune grading for 2020 is nearly complete at both Yenda Producers and Angas Park Loxton. Just under 70 per cent of the fruit is grading in the pittable range and, while there is surface sugar on some fruit, generally the size and quality has been good. Australian Prune Industry Association (APIA) promotions coordinator Jane McCorkell recently tendered her resignation from the position. Jane has done an outstanding job with the media exposure, organising food fairs, and building a network through many of the food technology channels. We wholeheartedly thank Jane and wish her all the best for her future endeavours. APIA has appointed Robyn Turner to the position and we look forward to working closely with her to promote Australian prunes.

Dried tree fruit There has been a good budburst on most varieties of apricots and this is a



Project sultana MU RRAY R I V ER O R G A N I C S

Murray River Organics is reviving the iconic pantry staple, establishing their own-grown organic sultanas in new product categories to sustain demand for their hero harvest.

many a lunchbox made complete with a compact cardboard box of the dried fruit snack. Back then, a strong Australian grower base (including our own farms in Sunraysia) sustained this consumer demand, with the sultana industry producing its highest yields during the period.

sell-where-the-demand-is strategy. Instead, we are determined to make our hero harvest work harder, creating new opportunities for sultanas across multiple consumer categories while growing awareness and demand through our targeted communications strategy.

The humble sultana has historic origins in Australia, with the very first vines planted in 1890. Who would have known back then that future harvests of the small-but-sweet dried fruit would put Australia on the world stage as premium sultana growers and turn sultanas into Aussie pantry royalty?

Though, it’s not been all happy harvests and gleeful growing. In recent years, difficult weather events, including persistent hot summers, along with high-water prices, have chased out long-serving smaller growers, placing increased demand on larger suppliers, with sell-prices remaining relatively flat despite rising operating costs.

The mid to late ‘90s were certainly the golden era for sultanas in Australia (cue “ants on a log” throwback), with

They are challenges that we at Murray River Organics know all too well and which have led us to pivot on our

This innovative approach combined with a dogged work ethic has seemingly worked, with our Murray River Organics consumer brand launching in January 2020 and already finding its place on the shelves of Australia’s largest supermarkets, including Woolworths, Coles and IGA. Our premium organic sultanas now hold their own not only in the dried fruit aisle, but also in the breakfast, health foods and confectionery aisles as well. Consumers are now more aware than ever of their health and wellness and are actively seeking better-for-you products. We aim to provide the answer to their search with innovative, high quality products made available in convenient locations. It’s all part of our overarching mission – to make tasty, clean and nutritious food accessible to all – and as Australia’s largest producer of organic dried vine fruit, we’re in a prime position to use our scale for good and achieve just that. You can view the MRO range at v Interested in going organic? Enquiries: Valentina Tripp | 0414 550 337



Vital link TO B U YER S

A changing global trade landscape has amplified the need for adaptive digital marketing. ATGA’s 2021 Table Grape Industry Exporter Directory will be a vital link between exporting growers and their markets. The Exporter Directory is a powerful tool for the table grape industry, providing a snapshot of the industry as well as detailed list of exporters, their contact details, varietals list, and more. In 2021, the Exporter Directory will be interactive, allowing greater search functionality and accessibility at a

time when digital marketing must be easy to digest, yet informative. Previous editions of the directory have seen more than 50 exporters showcase their businesses and their grapes. AUSTRALIAN TABLE GRAPE

ATGA CEO Jeff Scott said the almanac was an important trade resource for importers, retailers and other buyers of Australian table grapes.


“The table grape industry is inundated by importers, retailers and distributors with requests about who to buy grapes from,” Jeff said. “We always refer those contacts to the Exporter Directory, we don’t single out growers or exporters to remain fair to all.” v

2021 Directory coming soon

Protection of the Ralli Seedless We pride ourselves on the high quality that Ralli Seedless have come to be known for. We’ve received many enquiries about the availability of Ralli Seedless vines and cuttings from next year - once its PBR protection expires. It’s important that industry members understand that this expiry does not put G & I Ralli & Sons Pty Ltd’s (“G & I Ralli”) rights in the Ralli Seedless vines into public domain. All Ralli Seedless vines that are in the possession of nurseries or growers have been supplied by G & I Ralli (or else are illegal), which has never sold the rights of ownership of any Ralli Seedless vines, cuttings or plant material and has only granted leases or licences to the right to grow or propagate fruit from such vines, cuttings or plant material.

The PBR expiry next year does not change the fact that all of those vines, cuttings and plant material are still the property of G & I Ralli. Any person who attempts to deal with them in a way inconsistent with our company’s property rights will be pursued to the fullest extent permitted by law.

We welcome all enquiries pertaining to the supply of Ralli Seedless vines, cuttings or plant material. Please contact: Joe Ralli m: 0427 375 625

Anyone parting with possession of Ralli Seedless vines, cuttings and plant material or purporting to sell or lease the same, without our company’s prior written approval, or in any other way to deal with them free of our company’s rights and not subject to our prior approval will be, in effect, dealing with our company’s property illegally. Our company would, in such circumstances, be entitled to take court action whether a private prosecution under the criminal law for theft or under the civil law for conversion and it will not hesitate to do so if necessary.



Profile Sultana Sisters

While most kids were going off to kindergarten, Katerina and Ivana Blekic were “running amuck” among the grapevines, learning skills that would set them up for future success.

How long have you been in the industry? As third-generation growers, we were born and bred on the land. We both completed our degrees by correspondence so we could continue in the family vineyards and remain connected to our community. Now we work full time off farm but spend our spare time on The Sultana Sisters.

The Mildura sisters continued to work on their family’s dried fruit and wine grape block throughout their school and university studies before starting full-time jobs away from the farm for the first time in their lives.

Is your family involved too? Our grandparents, migrants from Croatia, planted their first vines on the outskirts of Mildura in the 1950s. Even though they’re in their 80s, our grandparents still work in the family vineyards alongside our parents, who work tirelessly day in and day out. Our younger brother also helps out when he’s not busy running his business.

But when farming is in your blood, it’s almost impossible to stay away. Whenever they’re not working, Katerina and Ivana are spending time building their own business – The Sultana Sisters. The young entrepreneurs launched their brand in 2018, delivering naturally dried sultanas, which they also package themselves, to a local and online market. Together they are on a mission to deliver a quality product that promotes the Australian industry, empower consumers to understand how food is produced, and showcase young people in agriculture.


How have things changed over the years? As well as the addition of new varieties, farming practices have changed – flood to drip irrigation, and rack to vine drying and mechanical harvesting. Consumers are also showing more interest in how fruit is produced, and the industry is better at telling its stories to create a connection. What do you love about the industry? The dried grape industry is constantly evolving, and it has taught us many valuable lessons in terms of leadership

and growth through challenges. There are lots of opportunities for collaboration and to listen and learn from others – we have met people from all walks of life. It’s also been great to see more positive stories of young people in the industry. Where do you see the industry going? We will see further improvements in technology as well as efficiency and sustainability. With COVID-19, consumers are more concerned about supporting local and understanding where their food comes from. We can only see the benefits in agritourism and anything that links consumers and producers. Is there anything new or innovative that you are doing on the block or in your business? As a family, we are planting a new variety to add to the line, and this will be in production in about a year. We are also set to launch our blog, Sultana Sunday, which will give consumers an insight into The Sultana Sisters, our industry, and how produce is grown. Then, in the next six to 10 months, we have some children’s books launching – linking values and sharing industry stories and life on the land in a fun and interactive way. v


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Mark King (Chair) Producer, Pomona

David Swain Sunbeam Foods

Tony Martin (Deputy Chair)

Grant Leyden Sunbeam Foods

Producer, Merbein

Craig Greenwood

Jenny Treeby Producer, Red Cliffs

Australian Premium Dried Fruits

Stephen Bennett Producer, Merbein

Michael Scalzo

Warren Lloyd Producer, Irymple


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Luke Lory Producer, Loxton

Australian Premium Dried Fruits

Valentina Tripp Murray River Organics

Ashley Johnstone Producer, Irymple

Jeremy Boyd (Acting chair), Victoria

Rocky Mammone Victoria

Richard Lomman (Executive delegate),

Adrian Cordoma Victoria

Northern Territory

Joe Gareffa New South Wales

David Agg South Australia


Nick Muraca Victoria

Peter Nuich Western Australia Mark Leng Queensland

Disclaimer: Dried Fruits Australia, the Australian Table Grape Association and Hort Innovation acknowledge contributions made by private enterprise through placement of advertisements in this publication. Acceptance of these contributions does not endorse or imply endorsement of any product or service advertised by contributors and we expressly disclaim all warranties (to the extent permitted by law) about the accuracy, completeness, or currency of information in the Vine. Reliance on any information provided in the Vine is entirely at your own risk. Dried Fruits Australia, the Australian Table Grape Association and Hort Innovation are not responsible for, and will not be liable for, any loss, damage, claim, expense, cost (including legal costs) or other liability arising in any way, including from any person’s negligence or otherwise, or from reliance on information contained in the Vine, or your use or non-use of the material. Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2020. Copyright subsists in the Vine. Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (Hort Innovation) owns the copyright, other than as permitted under the Copyright ACT 1968 (Cth). The Vine (in part or as a whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation and both ATGA and DFA.


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