Wilyabrup’s Cullen Wines in funding fillip to tackle climate change

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Cullen Wines owner Vanya Cullen with production manager Andy Barrett-Lennard, vineyard manager Brian Martin and vineyard dog Solly.
Camera IconCullen Wines owner Vanya Cullen with production manager Andy Barrett-Lennard, vineyard manager Brian Martin and vineyard dog Solly. Credit: Supplied

Wilyabrup’s Cullen Wines are celebrating after $36,000 of in-principle funding was approved this week by the State Government.

The money was sought under the Department of Agriculture’s $15 million Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program and will allow the biodynamic winery to further advance its Wilyabrup soil carbon project.

Cullen’s owner and celebrated winemaker Vanya Cullen told the Times the new funding win was part of the winery’s 25-year project registered with the Federal Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund aimed at saving credits and improving soil property.

Ms Cullen said the new State program supported WA agriculture’s potential to sequester carbon as part of the State’s growing carbon market, and the Wilyabrup winery was helped in the process by Carbon West.

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“Carbon farming is the way forwards for regenerative-agriculture and addressing climate change from the land,” she said.

“It’s been a long process and we’re grateful that we are at this point after all the hard work.”

All projects under the scheme would “deliver environmental, social and economic co-benefits, and contribute to long-term environmental sustainability,” she said.

The Cullen Wines project was first-reported by the Times in June last year, generating potential Australian Carbon Credit Units to help offset the winery’s future emissions.

But the winery reported the project, which was started ahead of any funding decisions, was already benefiting the vineyards.

Increased carbon in vineyard soils helped cool vines, meaning they withstood weather events like the recent heatwave much better.

But the key focus of the project was climate change, with the winery’s personal investment unlikely to be recouped despite the funding injection.

“We never really imagined carbon farming would come about,” Ms Cullen told the Times.

“We never did it with that intention, but it is a wonderful way for landowners to care for their properties.

“It’s just a way to do something, and it’s urgent,” she said.

“We’re in an existential climate change crisis at the moment. Climate change is speeding up and we all need to hurry up too.”

The project was part of the winery’s overall biodynamic ethos, which ramped up in 2014 in an effort to increase the carbon content of vineyard soils.

Pasture on the west side of Caves Road was planted with multi-species ground cover crops sown during mid-autumn and late spring to maximise sequestration of soil carbon.

The winery also planted extra trees in its limited non-vineyard areas.

Nine round-one projects were funded Statewide under the program “covering more than 7000ha and removing in excess of 140,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere over the next decade,” the department said.

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