CMV Farms at Langhorne Creek is undertaking one of its largest expansions in nearly two decades, propelled by the water efficiencies and electricity cost savings it has achieved under the South Australian River Murray Sustainability program (SARMS).
Planting of an additional 57 hectares of vines is on track to be completed by October and, according to farm manager Phil Reilly, the new crop will be irrigated solely with water that had once gone to waste when the property’s irrigation infrastructure was old and inefficient.
“We used to employ a guy who spent 50 per cent of his time driving around specifically looking for and fixing leaks in the irrigation dripline and the other 50 per cent of his work day was spent on general maintenance,” he said.
“The farm was established in 1998 so it was nearly 20 years old, the polyethylene dripline was cracked and degraded.
“The internal drip mechanisms of the drip tube and the plastic joining clamps weren’t UV stable - and it certainly wasn’t water efficient.”
In 2014 - on the back of the Millennium drought - a catalyst for change at the Milang Road property, 60km south-east of Adelaide, arrived with the SARMS’ Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (3IP).
CMV Farms’ successfully applied for two Round 1 grants; $310,000 to connect the 358ha property to a local pressurised pipeline and $715,000 to undertake a three-year project to replace leaking irrigation dripline across 150ha of vineyard.
The pipeline connection was completed in time for the 2014-15 wine grape season.
“We just jumped straight into it once we got the grant,” Phil said.
“You don’t do any major irrigation works during the grape-growing season - it has to be before or after otherwise you’ll jeopardise the health of the vines so we wanted to get it finished as soon as possible.
“It was a great initiative - I can get around the property [watering] in 12 hours instead of 24 hours.
“Now we predominantly water at night with off-peak power so not only are we saving a bucket load in electricity, the pipeline has much better water pressure.
“We can irrigate more effectively and we don’t lose water in evaporation either. We used to have to pump all of our irrigation water from Lake Alexandrina into a dam first, then on to the property so the dam is bypassed now.”
The final stretch of a marathon effort to replace 150ha of dilapidated dripline was finally achieved in August 2017.
“Hopefully we’ll get 15 or more years out of it,” Phil said.
“We used to use around 3.5 megalitres of water per hectare, per year. That’s been brought down to around 3ML.
“In fact, we applied for funding in Round 3 (and were successful) in 2016 to replace another 66 hectares because the first replacement worked so well, we just couldn’t ignore the benefits.
“It became a case of ‘why wouldn’t we apply’ and make the property even more efficient?”
Much of the farm’s annual 5,000 tonne winegrape crop is snapped up by Pernod Ricard Winemakers Australia, the company behind well-known labels including Jacob’s Creek and Wyndham Estate.
CMV Farms uses the remainder of the fruit for its own label wine, Shearer’s Hill and also deals in the bulk market which Phil said was a great way of keeping the finger on the pulse in domestic and overseas markets.
It’s hoped the newly planted 57ha vineyard will be ripe and ready to pick by 2020.
“Of course, the expansion will bring with it higher productivity and more jobs,” said Phil.
“I suppose one of the unexpected surprises from our involvement with SARMS is just how efficient we’ve been able to make the property.
“We’re doing this expansion without bringing in any more water: it’s water we already had but weren’t utilising, it was being wasted.
“Now it’s going to be used to grow wine grapes - we wouldn’t be doing that without the pipeline connection or new dripline.”
SARMS is contributing to the South Australian Government’s commitment and implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. SARMS is funded by the Australian Government and is being delivered by Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) over six years to mid-2019.