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Soil in relation to sustainable viticulture in the lower Hunter wine-growing area


The lower Hunter valley, centred on Pokolbin, is Australia’s oldest continuous wine-growing area. It produces wines of high distinction and quality. The University of Sydney Faculty of Agriculture and Environment have mapped and monitored soil since the installation of an irrigation scheme (Hunter Wine Country Private Irrigation District) in 2000. This has resulted in the best collection of institutional, non-proprietary soil data for any wine-growing district in Australia. These legacy data along with anticipated new field and laboratory research will allow us to provide better insights into soil - wine relationships with a view to producing a viticulturally focused soil/ terrain spatial information system which will provide a basis for decisions in grape growing, winemaking and marketing.


Professor Alex McBratney.

Research location

Sydney Institute of Agriculture

Program type



The project will aim to

  1. Refine existing maps of terrons (digital terroir) which are useful for management and in wine marketing. 
  2. Develop detailed soil and land suitability criteria for particular wine cultivars, e.g., Semillon and Shiraz.
  3. Ascertain the sustainability of production by assessing the soil condition through mapping stocks and rates of change of soil carbon, salinity and erosion.

Field and laboratory work 
This work will involve further detailed and targeted soil sampling to improve our understanding of stratigraphy and parent materials and to investigate land use effects. The use of geophysical survey procedures of electromagnetic induction and gamma radiometry will be required as well as field and laboratory infrared and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy.

Additional information

Collaboration This work will be done in collaboration with the Hunter Wine and Tourism Association and their representative Dr John Davis, Vigneron and CEO of Pepper Tree Wines. 

HDR Inherent Requirements 

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1916

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