Vineyard owners must improve their farm-gate hygiene to help prevent a significant pest or disease incursion such as phylloxera. This is the advice of Vinehealth Australia following further detections of phylloxera in vineyards in Victoria.

Agriculture Victoria has announced further extensions to the Maroondah Phylloxera Infested Zone (PIZ) to the east, south and west of the existing zone. While the new detections were found within the existing PIZ boundary, the Maroondah PIZ was extended to maintain a 5km buffer zone between an infested property’s boundary and the PIZ boundary.

This is the seventh extension to the Maroondah PIZ since phylloxera was first detected in the area in 2006, and follows the notification in March 2017 of an extension to the northern boundary of the zone.

“We know phylloxera doesn’t respect state borders. It’s time for vineyard owners to get serious about farm-gate hygiene to prevent an incursion of phylloxera,” said Vinehealth Australia CEO Inca Pearce.
What can growers do?
There are simple farm-gate hygiene practices that all vineyard owners/managers can implement to minimise the risk of an incursion of a pest or disease on their property.

  • Know where grape phylloxera is and is not located in Australia. Know your business links within interstate phylloxera zones. Follow all state quarantine regulations surrounding movement of phylloxera risk vectors, such as machinery, grape bins, equipment and grapes.
  • Use fences and gates to restrict people and vehicles accessing your vineyards. Use signs at entrances to advise visitors of reasons for this restriction. Keep a record of all visitors to your vineyard, detailing which wine regions they have visited in the eight days prior.
  • Train your staff, contractors and casual labour in best-practice farm-gate hygiene. This includes looking out for and reporting any unusual pests, diseases or vine growth symptoms to Vinehealth Australia on (08) 8273 0550 or the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.
  • Only allow machinery and equipment to enter your vineyard if it is clean of soil and plant material and has complied with state quarantine disinfestation and documentation requirements. Ensure all machinery and equipment also leaves your property clean of soil and plant material.
  • Instruct visitors and contractors to wear clean clothes before entering your vineyard and to clean and disinfest their footwear upon entry and exit, in accordance with the new Footwear and Small Hand Tool Disinfestation Protocol.
  • Source planting material from reputable grapevine nurseries or vine improvement associations.

What is Vinehealth Australia doing?
Vinehealth Australia is working proactively to prevent an incursion of phylloxera, including:

  • Reviewing the strength of South Australia’s Plant Quarantine Standards.
  • Planning random audits of vineyards across South Australia over the next six to eight months, to determine the level of adoption of simple farm-gate hygiene practices and to help growers minimise the risk of a pest and disease incursion.
  • Activating a Responsible Visitation Campaign, focused on safe visitation to wine regions by tourists and other visitors. This issue is increasingly important given jumps in tourist movement, including a 6.5% increase in international tourists to South Australia, and a 35% increase in Victorian tourists to SA. On top of that, more than 1 million SA residents visit Victoria each year and return to SA, posing a risk of spreading pests and diseases on their return to SA.
  • Rolling out several other highly visible awareness campaigns in the next six months with supporting material, focussed on farm-gate hygiene, compliance with state quarantine regulations, and identifying unusual pests or diseases.
  • Reviewing South Australia’s Phylloxera Outbreak Management Plan to ensure it is robust and comprehensive.
  • Actively working with Agriculture Victoria and Biosecurity SA (PIRSA) to reinforce efforts to ensure compliance against state quarantine regulations, strengthen accreditation schemes that enable the movement of certain phylloxera vectors within and between states, and ensure that the management of phylloxera is an ongoing high priority for allocation of resources. Vinehealth Australia is also advocating for transparent reporting back to industry of compliance against state quarantine regulations.
  • As a member of the National Viticulture Biosecurity Committee (NVBC), Vinehealth Australia is actively engaged in the process to develop a national strategy for the management of phylloxera, together with the other NVBC members and in consultation with industry.
  • Vinehealth Australia is also working on a South Australian surveillance program for Grapevine Pinot Gris Virus (GPGV), which was detected for the first time in Australia recently. We will keep industry updated with information relating to GPGV.

Why is it important to stop grape phylloxera?
Grape phylloxera is a high priority threat to own-rooted grapevines in Australia. The majority of Australia’s vineyards are on own roots (in South Australia 74% of vineyards are on own roots) and are therefore susceptible to phylloxera.

If phylloxera is detected in a vineyard, a quarantine zone is established to restrict the spread of the pest. Growers inside the quarantine zone will be directly impacted when selling their grapes, due to where the grapes can and cannot be processed. Movement of other grapevine material, machinery and equipment onto and off of these vineyards will also be limited.

These restrictions impose extra logistics costs on both infested and non-infested growers inside the quarantine zone. These costs are in addition to any loss of production caused by the pest. In the year that it is detected, impact will be significant, especially if detection is in the vintage period when movement of grapes, harvesters, bins, trucks and vintage staff is high.

Once a block is infested with phylloxera, growers will notice a gradual reduction in yield and vigour as symptoms worsen and the infection spreads from vine to vine. The reduction in vigour alters grape sugar-acid balance, compromises grape flavour and intensity and impacts grape integrity. Consistency of wine quality over time suffers as a result.

Once vines are symptomatic, phylloxera is likely to have been present for several years. This contributes to the difficulty in limiting phylloxera spread, both between vineyard blocks on the same property and between properties.

A lack of available chemical or biological control for phylloxera means there is no treatment for a phylloxera-infested vineyard. The only option is to pull out the vineyard and replant with new vines that have been grafted onto phylloxera tolerant or resistant rootstock. The vine material comes at a cost – at least three times that of own-rooted material.

Pulling out vines and replanting comes at an approximate cost of $60,000 per hectare, including vine removal, new grafted vine material and new block infrastructure.

Once a vineyard is infested, growers will have to consider factors such as:

  • Setting up heightened farm-gate hygiene systems, including the cleaning and disinfestation of machinery, equipment, footwear and clothing for all persons leaving the property to avoid transferring phylloxera off-site.
  • Purchasing additional machinery and equipment to segregate use to phylloxera infested or non-infested properties
  • Purchasing additional clothing and footwear for employees (and potentially contractors), to ensure the same sets are not worn in infested and non-infested properties.
  • Erecting a heat shed to sterilise machinery and equipment coming onto and leaving the infested property or determining access to heat sheds owned by others.
  • Erecting washdown facilities to ensure all machinery and equipment leaving the property is cleaned of soil and plant material prior to disinfestation.
  • Ensuring you know every person and vehicle coming onto your property, where they have been and where they are going next. Having a farm vehicle available for authorised visitors who visit your property.
  • Where grapes are processed. Grapes from a phylloxera infested vineyard cannot be moved to a Phylloxera Risk Zone or Phylloxera Exclusion Zone for processing.
  • If you have a cellar door, you will need to consider tourism factors, such as preventing visitors from entering vineyards and providing ways of ‘bringing the outside in’ to encourage responsible visitation.

Sixty seconds for safe shoes
Recent studies have shown that a 60 second disinfestation treatment is required to demonstrate 100% mortality across six key endemic strains of phylloxera.

The findings underline the importance of carrying out footwear and small hand tool disinfestation at the correct concentration and duration, without a rinse after, to ensure effectiveness of treatment.

Footwear and Small Hand Tool Disinfestation Protocol.

Phylloxera is a reportable pest. Anyone who suspects a phylloxera infestation must report it promptly to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or to Vinehealth Australia on (08) 8273 0550.
For information and advice about phylloxera and/or setting up farm-gate hygiene systems, contact Vinehealth Australia on (08) 8273 0550, email or visit