Over the last 40 years, Petra has made a significant contribution to horticulture and viticulture science and the associated industries, including the wine industry.
In the 1980s, after completing her PhD, Petra worked as a MAF consultant and as a researcher on phylloxera control.
Appointed a research scientist and viticulture lecturer at EIT in 2006, Petra worked on a research programme investigating the effects of within-vineyard variability on vine and grape growth and wine quality, strategies to manage and minimise this variability, and the influence of under-vine management practices on grape and wine quality.
She also investigated the use of a film-forming antitranspirant spray pre-bloom to temporarily diminish leaf function, resulting in fewer berries per bunch, lower bunch weights and yields and more open bunches. The latter result reduced the need the need for crop thinning and improved disease control.
Following on from that work, Petra led a School of Viticulture and Wine Science team of researchers who found spraying grapevines at veraison reduced rates of sugar accumulation compared to unsprayed vines, while other ripness characters influencing flavour continued to develop.
This practice could be used to enable fruit to be harvested at lower brix levels without reducing ripeness and wine quality.
The technique has potential to be a significant breakthrough for producing lower alcohol ‘lifestyle’ wines.
Head of School Sue Ross says Petra has willingly shared her expertise with colleagues and students, supporting and mentoring them to develop their own research projects and skills.
“We are very fortunate to retain Petra as a member of the team so that ongoing collaborative research with EIT staff can continue.”