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Saving money on frost mitigation for Pernod Ricard

CHALLENGE

Spring frosts decimating grape crops

Pernod Ricard own three vineyards in Coonawarra, South Australia. The climate in Coonawarra is temperate, but in spring, morning frosts cause problems for local growers, with temperatures dropping as low as -4 degrees.

Growers most affected by spring frosts are orchardists and vineyards. The frost can burn the new buds and cause damage that impacts on fruit yield later in the year. Frost burn can decimate a harvest.

Irrigation design specialist Matt Binder was contracted to design a frost mitigation system to safeguard Pernod Ricard’s wine grapes from frost.

Matt had worked with Nelson Australia before to specify Nelson products for his irrigation schemes, so he called SA Area Manager Darren Riggs to ask what Nelson sprinklers are best for frost control.

SOLUTION

Cost-effective frost mitigation using Nelson sprinklers

Over-head sprinklers are a smart way to protect buds and blossoms from frost. They’re more reliable in hard frosts than frost cannons and wind machines, and more affordable than options like helicopters and propane burners.

On clear spring nights, crops are sprayed with water. As the frost falls, the water turns to ice and two things happen. The freezing process releases heat, which warms the air around the plants, raising the temperature a few critical degrees. A thin layer of ice also forms on the crops, insulating the buds from frost damage.

It may seem counter intuitive to protect plants from frost with ice. But frost harms crops more than an icy coating, as it freezes the water within the plant’s own cells, damaging and dehydrating the plant from the inside out.

Nelson’s full coverage frost mitigation solutions give your crops the best protection from frost. A common frost solution used in vineyards is to place sprinklers along the row of vines, creating a wetted strip. This helps mitigate the direct effects of frost on the vines but doesn’t increase the surrounding air temperature as much as full cover sprinkler systems.

Our team worked with Matt to help him design the Pernod Ricard frost mitigation system, specifying products, recommending spacing, and advising on uniformity and application rate. Matt was working within the existing flow limitations of the property bores. We recommended mounting sprinklers above the vine canopy in a triangular pattern, on every 2nd post, every 5th row. The sprinklers were spaced approx. 12m by 12m, which gave excellent coverage of the vines.

The Nelson R2000 sprinkler specified for Pernod Ricard offers superior coverage. As a result, Matt’s design used fewer sprinklers and was more affordable while still offering excellent protection. The system applies approx. 3.8mm of water per hour which is enough to protect the wines from a -3.8 degrees frost.

RESULTS

Effective, easy to operate, and maintain

Pernod Ricard’s Maintenance and Irrigation Coordinator Steven Cryer explains, “The frost mitigation project went well. We knew what to expect and everything was made clear. As far as frost mitigation, we’re very happy with the protection we’re getting and also the ease of operation and maintenance of the system.”

System architect, Matt says, “I’ve worked with Darren and the Nelson team for several years. Nelson are great supporters and a good source of information. This was the largest frost system I’ve done with the Nelson R2000 sprinkler, and it’s a great tool for the job. Nelson products are proven in SA. They’ve been around a long time, and they’re always being updated and improved. They’re up with the best.”