Smart Viticulture and Sensitive Land Management by Habermann’s Höhe in the Barossa

Smart Viticulture and Sensitive Land Management by Habermann’s Höhe in the Barossa

Barossa polypipe recycled at PGS

I met Fiona Habermann in May 2017 outside Plastics Granulating Services, PGS based in Kilburn as she delivered almost a tonne of recoiled dripper line from the family vineyard in return for a rebate from Sustaining Endeavour through Rural Supply Partner,
Smyth Road Irrigation, based in Tanunda.

Fiona and husband Daniel, used this rebate towards purchasing new plastic irrigation products made in Adelaide by Toro and Antelco, two of the seven Australian manufacturers sponsoring Sustaining Endeavour’s Recycling and Rebate Service.

There outside PGS in Kilburn, the then epicentre of South Australia’s plastics recycling industry, Fiona and I had a chat about collaborative regional recycling and the need for more modern recoiling machines to be available to Barossa Growers when they need them through the Barossa Grape and Wine Association and regional supply stores.

We talked about supporting Australian manufacturers and biodiversity with recycling rebates and Fiona started to tell me of the productive vines, quality grapes and the native landscape they’ve established and which they continue to foster on their own property.

Greener Pastures

Towards the end of winter I had an opportunity to visit and learn at the Habermann’s Höhe, located in the scenic foothills of Barossa Range, just East of Tanunda. Habermann’s Höhe (pronounced  hey-ya) is German for heights this being the property name given in 1846.

As I descended down the drive way past a dam surrounded by hundreds of native seedlings and later an embankment of more seedlings, I’m struck with what at first glance appeared to be luscious paddocks of waist high green crops. Then amongst the covercrop I notice rows of gnarled dormant vines and eventually spot Fiona and Daniel busily tending their vines.

(Above Fiona & Daniel in the young vines)

I learned that the mid-rows have been planted with alternating crops of triticale and cereal rye, which is allowed to grow through winter and this assists the water balance in the vineyard. Then in a few weeks time, just before they flower these winter crops are broken down. Daniel explained that the cereal rye being robust is slashed undervine to form a good mulch to help preserve soil moisture over the summer months. The triticale is also slashed undervine and the remainder is worked into the soil, and breaks down quickly which increases organic carbon levels and feeds the vines as they grow through spring. Following Vintage in the year ahead, the mid-rows planted with triticale this year will be planted with cereal rye and vice versa for the rows presently planted with cereal rye, so that the earth and vines are kept in balance.

Compaction is also a concern, so alternate rows are ripped to a depth of 40cm just before seeding the covercrop in Autumn, the opposite row is then predominantly driven on during that growing season. This pattern is swapped year about.

New Vine Orientation and Architecture

Fiona and Daniel have changed the orientation of their vine rows which previously ran North-South to now run East-West. This enormous re-work of the vineyard was in response to the vine canopy tending to be rolled over by the gully winds from the east when the vines were in their former orientation, requiring a form of kaolin sun spray to prevent the grapes from being sun-burned. The new orientation of the vines allows the gully breezes to pass mainly between the rows and only a small residual wind speed hits the side of the canopy.

An eye-catching feature of the vines is the use of a catch wire along each row, which utilise vine posts that stand higher and that are placed along the rows at intervals. The catch wire that runs along the standard vine posts and higher posts effectively trains the canopy to be lifted in parts and lower in others. The resulting canopy structure is undulating and assists in breaking up the residual gully winds to further prevent the canopy rolling, which in turn prevents the ripening fruit from being exposed directly to and being burnt by the intense summer sun.

A new orientation and more aerated canopy structure have eliminated the need for kaolin sun screen and results in ideal conditions for ripening of grapes. High quality fruit are the end result and which sustains the Habermann family legacy in the Barossa.

Irrigation System

The new orientation involves each vine row running along a gradual slope, requiring pressure variation to be considered in the design of their irrigation system in order to deliver even watering along the rows. Daniel and Fiona have also taken the unusual but clever decision to not attach their drip tube
to a vine wire running along the bottom of each post, but instead to attach the tubing with fasteners to each vine post.

The benefits of having no vine wire for attachment of the drip tube is that the cost in purchasing the vine wire and time in attaching this wire to the drip tube is avoided. The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with production of vine wire, being a steel product, are significant and hence eliminating the need for the vine wire at the bottom of each post reduces the embodied GHG emissions in establishing the vineyard. A further benefit is that without the vine wire, the task of recoiling dripperline, for example for reuse or for recycling, is made much easier.

A important element of Fiona and
Daniel’s irrigation system is the use of high quality valves to flush sediment from each row of drip tube prior to commencement of irrigation and periodically though spring and summer, this prevents the in-line drippers from becoming blocked.


 The significant efforts made by Fiona and Daniel in cultivating hedges and stands of native vegetation over a number of years were apparent throughout the vineyard. The practical and functional elements of these plantings mean that the habitat created also contributes to farm productivity. Examples included a beautiful hedge of casuarinas trees planted in 2012 and already serving their purpose as a wind break.

Other examples included mixed plantings of grevillea, salt bush, meleleuca and bottle brushes that serve as screenings along the road side. It was a joyous moment indeed to see tiny native birds and bees hovering around some of these bushes.

Growers, Recyclers and Manufacturers within the Circular Economy

Toro and Antelco are both South Australian manufacturers.

Toro manufacture their range of irrigation products, including Toro Drip-In PC, the drip tube of choice for Habermann’s Höhe, in Beverley, in Adelaide’s western suburbs. Toro employ 240 staff in total across their Australian operations, including 100 within their Adelaide-based manufacturing operations.

Antelco is head quartered at Murray Bridge, South Australia where it manufactures, assembles and packages their range of micro irrigation products, including the Green Back Valve considered the best by Habermann’s Höhe.

A key issue for recyclers of end-of-life drip tube is that components contained within drippers and pressure compensating elements are not compatible with the final granulated recycled product and so need to be removed using a sophisticated recycling process. With the closure of PGS in June, Adelaide is presently without a recycler who has such an operation.

There is a potential opportunity for a new recycler to establish operations in Adelaide in order to recycle end-of-life polyethylene drip tube and other post-consumer plastic waste, as well as supplying high quality granulated or flaked recycled plastic to Australian manufacturers.

Sustaining Endeavour hopes that this case study demonstrates the opportunities to potential new recyclers in Adelaide so that investment can be made in the necessary infrastructure to recycle end-of-life drip tube, with the support of Australian plastics manufacturers and South Australian Grower Associations within a circular economy Business model.

Toro and Antelco are two of the seven Australian Plastics manufacturers within Sustaining Endeavour’s circular economy based business model. Similar to the cycle of carbon between the mid-row grasses and the grapes at Habermann’s Höhe, Sustaining Endeavour seeks to make plastic resources circulate between our state’s vineyards, recyclers and Australian manufacturers.

Sustaining Endeavour is grateful for the support of Barossa Grape & Wine Association in promoting the Recycling and Rebate Service to Barossa growers, from which some rebates are going towards BGWA’s “Creating Resilient Landscapes in the Barossa” environmental project.

Sustaining Endeavour thanks all Sponsoring Manufacturers. Growers are able to contact all Sponsors via contact details here Sponsoring Manufacturer Contact Details

Please feel free to leave a comment below. Also check out more photos and commentary on what I’ve learned from Fiona and Daniel as well as Antelco and Toro on the Sustaining Endeavour Facebook Post

Uma Preston, September 2017


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