New research on what ‘good’ bugs do and how to attract them, is causing inquisitive viticulturists to seriously consider native vegetation as an essential element of vineyard design.

I’m a very lucky lass, living amongst the vineyards in the Barossa Valley in South Australia.  It’s an iconic part of the country.  Wholesome, earthy and cultural.  But don’t get distracted by the rustic appeal.  Wine is big business here and the Barossa is home to some substantial international wine industry players.  The total combined SA food and wine industry is worth $17 billion per year equating to 40% of total merchandise exports for the state.

It’s also a region where an estimated 3% of native vegetation structure remains since European settlement.  Now that is concerning.  The South Australian government is pushing the tag ‘Our future relies on premium food and wine produced in our clean environment and exported to the world.’ Can Australia’s most iconic wine industry co-exist with our natural environment?

There is a growing swell of vignerons out there who are hungry for information about how to do this.  Establishing native insectary plantings is providing value to the vineyards while also providing biodiversity outcome.

So what is a native insectary planting?  It’s an area of native vegetation which is designed to provide habitat to attract beneficial insects and arthropods.  It’s a form of biological pest control.  Providing habitat for the good guys such as lacewings, parasitic wasps and ladybirds so that they can predate on vineyard pests like the light brown apple moth.  Its natural pest control, reducing the need for pesticides and increasing the resilience of the vineyard.

This isn’t a new concept. Home gardeners are onto it.  It’s like companion planting.  ABC Gardening Australia presenter Sophie Thomson writes about her insectary in ‘Sophie’s Patch’.  As Sophie explains you want to attract the beneficial bugs and then you want to make them stay.  By using locally occurring native plants, you’re not only providing the appropriate habitat but the plants are adapted to the landscape, soil type and climatic conditions.

But back in the vineyard, space can be precious, how big do these areas have to be? And how far can the good bugs travel?  What plants are best?  All worthy questions.  Viticulturalist, Chris Clavey, has won a few awards for his work in developing an insectarium at Taltarni Vineyard in Victoria.  Watch his story.

More recently, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Mary Retallack from Retallack Viticulture.  She is a wealth of knowledge and her interest in insectary plantings spans many years.  Mary wrote a publication on ‘Enhancing biodiversity in Vineyards’ for the Adelaide and Mount Lofty NRM Board.  Featured here on the Barossa Wine and Grape Association’s website:.

Shortly Mary will complete her PHD at the University of Adelaide where she has been undertaking research to make it easier to get the best out of these plantings. If we are serious about premium food and wine in South Australia, then incorporating these types of tools is significant in growing better products with better environmental outcomes.

In the meantime there are vignerons out there looking at their bush blocks with renewed respect.  I’ve seen new insectary plantings being established in nooks and crannies of existing vineyards, but also nearby roadsides and creek lines rejuvenated with new plantings of insect attracting native plants.

Below I’ve included my Top Ten Picks of species for insectary plantings in the Barossa Valley area but it’s just a snap shot.  With the assistance of further research we will soon have better confidence in selecting species to target problem pests.

Grounded Ideas Top Ten Picks of native plant species for Insectary plantings in the Barossa Valley:

  • Vittadinia daisy, Vittadinia gracilis
  • Sticky Hop Bush, Dodonea viscousa
  • Christmas Bush, Bursaria spinosa
  • Fringe myrtle, Caltrix tetragona
  • Scarlet Bottlebrush, Callistamon rugulosus
  • Lavender grevillea, Grevillea lavandulacea
  • Common correa, Correa reflexa
  • Kangaroo Grass, Themeda triandra
  • Wallaby Grass, Rytidosperma sp.
  • Bluebells, Wahlenbergia sp.
  • Native cranberry, Astroloma humifusum
  • Gorse bitter pea, Daviesia ulicifolia
  • Mat Rush, Lomandra multiflora