Climate-Smart Farmer in Focus - Alisdair Tulloch

Alisdair Tulloch is fifth-generation grapegrower and winemaker at Keith Tulloch wines, which has been certified as carbon neutral by the Federal Government.

 

At a glance

Who: Alisdair Tulloch 

What: Fifth-generation grapegrower and winemaker

Where: Hunter Valley, NSW

Can you tell us about your property?

I work for my family vineyard, Keith Tulloch Wine. We grow Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz grapes in the Hunter Valley wine region and we also make our wines here in the onsite winery.

What first got you thinking about climate change?

I have been watching our vineyards respond to changes in the climate my entire life. The increasingly extreme temperatures and droughts threaten the future of my wine region, my family business and my home.

How has climate change impacted on your farm business?

Grapevines are extremely sensitive to changes in climate, so much that each region has specific varieties. When we think of the Hunter Valley, Semillon and Shiraz are the most suitable grapes – in cooler, more Southern regions such as Tasmania, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown. The change in climate however has created a crisis in the wine industry that we can see on our farm; the suitability of the grapes for our new climate is more and more strained. 

We have experienced an undeniable increase in extreme heatwaves that stress vines and affect wine quality, more intense and longer droughts that adversely affect fruit yields and higher overall average temperatures throughout the year, which has many serious effects including disappearing winter dormancy and harvest compression. These are not unique to my farm, as the Australian and international wine industry grapples with the increasingly difficult viticultural challenges.

What are some of the climate-smart strategies you’ve been employing and how successful have they been?

We have been implementing regenerative agriculture on our farm to promote soil health and to improve resilience. One key change has been growing cover crops in the vine midrows to increase natural nitrogen and soil organic carbon, which increases the water holding potential of the soil. Underneath the vine, we now grow clover instead of using systemic herbicides or cultivation, previous practices which dried out the soil and adversely affected the population of beneficial microorganisms. The clover suppresses weeds and provides ground cover to further retain soil moisture, whilst fixing nitrogen into the soil where the vines can access it.

In 2018 we also made our family farm carbon neutral, as well as all of our wine products. This means that our operation, which previously emitted 660 tons CO2-e per year now has zero net emissions. This change has involved finding efficiencies across our organisation and investing in emissions reductions such as our new solar array. Our winery and vineyard ‘Keith Tulloch Wine’ is certified as carbon neutral by the Australian government under their ‘Climate Active’ program.