News, Research and Development

Microbat study could save $50m annually for Australia’s wine industry

Victorian winery Fowles Wine has partnered with the University of New England (UNE) for a ground-breaking study of micro-bats that could see savings of $50 million per annum for Australia’s wine industry.

The joint study is investigating whether the micro-bats are consuming pests in the vineyard at the same rate as in cotton farms, with the potential to increase the use of natural resources in the broader wine industry.

Operating with the philosophy: to farm in nature’s image, the winery has also embarked on a partnership with Euroa Arboretum to implement insectariums and seed orchards to ensure regenerative and self-sufficient ecosystems – particularly important for areas where bushfires are prevalent and native plant life is at risk.

Matt Fowles, owner of Fowles Wine said the Strathbogie Ranges winery is always looking at ways they can work with the power of nature to support their winemaking and its environment.

“Every day, the bats can consume 30-100% of their body mass. A colony of 100 bats, weighing 10 grams each, could remove up to one kilo of insects every night,” said Fowles.

With that in mind, the winery’s latest project is investigating the value of some of its smallest inhabitants – the microbats that call the winery home.

“There are 16 species of insect-eating bats in Victoria, including four endangered species, but we don’t know how many of them are living and foraging in the vineyards. What we do know is that where the bats populate and can echolocate is where the vines and fruit thrive most,” said Fowlers.

Dr Heidi Kolkert and Dr Zenon Czenze from UNE have installed sound recording devices in the Fowles vineyards to better understand the different bat species living there, their insect feeding habits, and the role they play to maintain biodiversity in the local ecosystem.

“In the first year of the ‘Bats and Wine’ initiative our preliminary results suggest that bats play a vital role in controlling agricultural pests within NSW vineyard ecosystems,” Dr Czenze said.

Along with the ‘Bats and Wine’ initiative, the researchers also completed a fauna survey for a more holistic understanding of wildlife at Fowles Wine and the greater region.

“This current project with Fowles represents a leap forward — the most comprehensive study yet — aimed at unravelling bat diversity and their ecosystem contributions within vineyards,” said Fowlers.

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