• Alexander Copper in Cyprus with the drought-tolerant white variety Xynisteri.
    Alexander Copper in Cyprus with the drought-tolerant white variety Xynisteri.

Drought-tolerant grape varieties from Cyprus will soon be trialled for suitability in Australian conditions, with researchers from the University of Adelaide hoping the vines will be able to grow “with minimal to no irrigation”.

Recently released from Australian quarantine, the Cypriot varieties Xynisteri (white) and Maratheftiko (red) are being propagated at the university's Waite campus to replicate the vines used in commercial Cypriot vineyards before being placed in trails.

University of Adelaide PhD student Alexander Copper said these vine varieties are drought tolerant and are grown without irrigation in Cyprus, and is hoping to achieve a similar result in Australia.

We are seeing increasing temperatures and increasing frequency of heat waves in southern Australia and this is affecting vine harvest and putting more and more pressure on water resources,” said Copper.

We do have some more drought tolerant varieties from Spain, Italy and Portugal, but I believe the Cypriot varieties will be more drought tolerant than these. They have been cultivated for thousands of years in Cyprus, tolerating very hot, dry summers, surviving on winter rainfall alone, very similar to our climate here in South Australia.”

Copper is funded by scholarships from the University of Adelaide and Wine Australia, and is supervised by associate professors Cassandra Collins and Susan Bastian, and Dr Trent Johnson, in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

Considering the similar climates of Australia and Cyprus, these Cypriot grape varieties have potential as environmentally sustainable wines which will require less resources and help in the future adaptation of the wine industry to a changing climate,” said Collins.

Copper has established trials under irrigated and drought conditions in Cyprus, with the vines from quarantine to also be experimented in Australia in order to further determine its drought tolerance.

We hope to have data ready for publication from the Cyprus trials early in 2020, and the Australian trials at the Waite campus in Autumn 2021,” he said. “After that we hope to run field trials in different regions of South Australia.”

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