Phylloxera: DNA testing for early and accurate detection


Vinehealth Australia is the lead agency in a collaborative phylloxera research project to develop an advanced early detection and surveillance system using DNA extracted from soil samples.

Once endorsed, the DNA method will form part of an integrated approach for the detection and surveillance of phylloxera.

“Growers will be able to use this new cost-effective DNA method to collect soil samples in the field according to a simple protocol, and then send these samples to an approved laboratory which will detect phylloxera DNA accurately and sensitively using a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay which is specific to phylloxera, to determine the amount of any phylloxera present,” says Inca Pearce, CEO of Vinehealth Australia.

Outcomes of this project will support identification and verification of area freedom status to facilitate market access for growers, as well as improving proactive management strategies for phylloxera.

The project commenced in 2013 and is forecast to conclude in mid-2018. Project funding has been provided by the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC), Wine Australia and Vinehealth Australia. Other partners include the University of Adelaide, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Rho Environmetrics.



Results from the first three years of the project were published in late 2016 in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research in a paper called ‘Detection of grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae Fitch) by real-time quantitative PCR: development of a soil sampling protocol’.

A final report to Wine Australia on this project, titled ‘Sampling strategies for sensitive, accurate and cost effective detections for quantifying area freedom status’ was completed mid 2017 and can be accessed here.

A final report to the PBCRC was submitted end March 2018 and is awaiting review and publishing by the PBCRC. For more information about the project, refer to the PBCRC’s website.

Towards endorsement of the DNA method

A number of items below are being undertaken to ensure the DNA method becomes a commercial option for growers and regulators in phylloxera detection.

  • Embedding the DNA method into the National Diagnostic Protocol for phylloxera.
  • Gaining national endorsement of the DNA method through the above via Plant Health Committees.
  • Integrate the DNA method into national and state phylloxera protocols/regulations.