Sunday, 14 April 2024 14:25

Farewell to Rob Agnew

Written by  Emma Timewell
Rob Agnew Rob Agnew

“We’ve just had the first decent shower in three months,” says Rob Agnew when we call him.

He reckons the top of the south is in drought; the hydrologist at the local council says not. Rob has been watching Marlborough’s weather for some 38 years and writing about it in VineFacts since 1997.

Over those years, he and his team have shepherded VineFacts into a ‘must have’ for the wine industry, adding in seven different areas, and creating our first – and invaluable – dataset on phenology.

Thanks to their work, we now have 20 years of phenology data that enables us to run more accurate modelling, such as flowering, ripening and harvesting.

These are becoming increasingly important as our climate changes.

“That data has given us clues about what’s changing – warmer, earlier summers, movement in flowering, and maturity – helping growers to manage their vineyards,” Rob says.

Watching, analysing and writing about the weather and then communicating that to growers has really spun his wheels, as he puts it.

“I’m not an academic researcher. I get frustrated if I can’t see uses for research.”

He is now ready to hand over that work to his number two: Victoria Raw.

Rob Agnew is retiring – but only from Plant & Food Research.

He’s not planning on sitting around; he has an active Christian faith that translates into a strong community service and support ethic.

And that drought question? Rob says people look at the lush, green growth in vineyards and ask how can there be a drought? What they don’t understand is that winegrowers irrigate their crops but pastoral operators don’t. What’s the bet he’s right?

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