McLaren Vale vineyards

Published on 16 July 2021

Turning feral olive trees into McLaren Vale wine

An innovative pilot project is removing feral olive trees from national parks and turning them into a product which is helping grow grapes at McLaren Vale vineyards.

This is the first time in South Australia that feral olive trees from Onkaparinga River National Park and Glenthorne National Park – Ityamaiitpinna Yarta are being used to create biochar, a product which can help retain nutrients, improve soil structure and increase water-holding capacity of soils.

Biochar production is an environmentally friendly carbon recycling process, which in this project is taking the olive trees, putting them in a portable piece of machinery called a Tigercat and burning the trees at temperatures of 500 degrees Celsius to create biochar.

The biochar produced as part of the project is processed and sold by the project’s commercial partners including to local McLaren Vale vineyards. It’s expected that any funds raised will be able to go back into the project to fund further olive control and revegetation works.

Project partners include the Department for Environment and Water’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Biodiversity McLaren Vale, Koomilya Vineyard, Peats Soil, City of Onkaparinga, City of Marion, Bio Gro, Green Adelaide and the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board.

City of Onkaparinga’s support for the project complements council’s work removing woody weeds and protecting Onkaparinga’s 1200 kilometres of roadside vegetation, helping biodiversity bounce back and reducing bushfire risk across the region in partnership with the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board.

Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said the biochar project is a first for national parks in South Australia.

“Our national parks conserve vitally important ecosystems, habitats, plants and animals, unique land formations, and culturally significant places,” Minister Speirs said.

“They are essential spaces to enjoy nature in all its forms, and provide South Australians with a wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits.

“This truly exciting project is removing feral olive trees from the Onkaparinga River and Glenthorne national parks in our southern suburbs and turning them into biochar which is then used to help boost our agriculture sector.

“By removing an invasive pest plant species and turning it into a valuable commodity we are not only better protecting our beautiful flora and fauna but we are supporting local industry in a win-win for the environment and our economy.

“I’d like to thank all of our project partners for their support and help in rolling this project out.”