Tuesday evening 20th August saw the Waite Research Institute host Waite in the Spotlight: food and wine in a changing climate as part of National Science Week.

Held for the fourth time, this year’s event was in the format of a panel discussion about the impacts of a changing climate on the food we eat and wine we drink, and how research and innovation is helping to ensure these industries can adapt. The food and wine sectors are vital to the South Australian economy and the challenges posed by a changing climate mean science in support of agricultural productivity has never been more necessary.

MC Belinda Cay from AgCommunicators was joined by Peter Hayman and Paul Petrie (SARDI), and Kerry Wilkinson, Rachel Burton and Doug Bardsley (The University of Adelaide).

Peter outlined that climate change means South Australia is getting warmer and drier, and this is affecting agricultural regions to varying degrees across the State. Paul discussed what impacts this is having on the wine industry, and Kerry added that in addition to hot and dry conditions, wine regions are already feeling the impacts of more bushfires. 

When it comes to cereal crops and other plants, Rachel said that climate-induced or exacerbated stresses on plants can have an impact on yield and nutritional quality in some areas. Doug brought the discussion around to social thresholds and the impacts of a changing climate on people, places and communities.

The panel then discussed research that is helping our agricultural industries and communities, including improved farming systems and management techniques, better water use, innovations in winemaking processes, growing alternative varieties and new technologies in plant breeding including GM crops.

The panel also gave their top tips that everyone can do at home, such as being a more flexible consumer and trying new varieties, being open to the idea of alternative sources of protein such as edible insects, growing your own food and minimising food waste, and supporting producers and regions that are proactively adapting their business to be more responsive to climate challenges.

A lively Q&A session with the engaged audience followed, and the conversations continued over nibbles and drinks.

Waite in the Spotlight 2019 was sponsored by the Waite Research Institute, Inspiring South Australia and National Science Week.

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