Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Survey shows many vineyards ‘open for infection’

March 2, 2013
Grapevine phylloxera

Daktulosphaira vitifoliae. Jack Kelly Clark, UC Statewide IPM Program

A recent survey by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has shown that many grape growers are not implementing basic biosecurity measures that could prevent infection of their properties.

DPI officers inspected vine roots for the presence of the insect pest phylloxera to determine borders for a Phylloxera Exclusion Zone (PEZ). Along with the inspections, grape growers were asked about vineyard hygiene and biosecurity.

The same growers were invited to take part in a follow-up survey after three years.

While biosecurity practices had improved in some regards over the three-year period, many grape growers are leaving themselves open to infection. Results showed that there was an increase in the use of vineyard biosecurity signs from 29% to 47% over the period.

Plant Health Australia Chief Executive and CEO, Greg Fraser, said it was pleasing that almost half of the 542 vineyards surveyed had adopted the use of the signs.

“Farm biosecurity signs indicate that biosecurity is important in the vineyard and direct all visitors to check in with the property owner on arrival.”

However, Mr Fraser points out that the figures are likely to be lower across Australia as a whole since the survey was conducted in areas susceptible to phylloxera, where the issue of biosecurity is likely to be in the front of people’s minds.

“All grape growers should be using the signs to alert visitors of the need to adhere to biosecurity measures,” said Mr Fraser. “Footbaths are also an important biosecurity measure and the surveys showed that only about a third of the growers in the phylloxera regions were using them. That’s a lot of vineyards left open to infection.

“It may just be new weed species coming onto the property that you’d need to deal with, but there are also some nasty pests that can affect grape production that growers need to guard against.

“Phylloxera is an example of a pest that is established in some areas of Australia, but there are also exotic pests like black rot fungus and Pierce’s disease that could find a way into Australia and cause a lot of damage. Simple biosecurity practices will go a long way to protect a vineyard from all of these pests,” he said.

Other practices to protect vineyards also need to be adopted by more growers. For example, fewer than 20% reported having a wash-down area, which is important for all vineyards supplying grapes. Other recommended measures include:

  • restricting people and vehicle movement in vineyards and high risk areas
  • controlling volunteer plants that could harbour pests around cropping areas
  • cleaning cartage and transport equipment before entering farms
  • ensuring that picking buckets, crates and bins are clean before taking them into a vineyard
  • disposing of crop residues and by-products effectively, such as by burning or burying
  • reporting neglected vineyards or feral grapevines where biosecurity risks are not being managed
  • purchasing pest-free planting material.

Vineyards were surveyed during and after phylloxera rezoning in the Henty, Wimmera, Grampians, Pyrenees, Bendigo, Heathcote, Geelong, Macedon Ranges and Sunbury wine regions in Victoria.