Agriculture Victoria has launched a new Tackling Phylloxera Program – a state-wide project that aims to address the biosecurity challenges posed by grape phylloxera. The Victorian Government has committed $1 million to fund the program, which will run until June 2020.

The six projects described on Agriculture Victoria’s website to be funded by this $1m investment are:

  1. To develop and adopt innovative, science-based protocols and procedures to enable rapid and accurate phylloxera diagnostics.
  2. To develop a strategic long-term plan for phylloxera management in Victoria.
  3. To explore the barriers to grower (and associated supply chain participant) adoption of 
best practice phylloxera management.
  4. To undertake a state-wide awareness program aimed at improving business adoption of 
on-farm biosecurity best practice measures.
  5. To undertake a review of the alignment of the Victorian Viticulture Biosecurity Committee 
with industry expectations and ensure that these closely align to the core objectives of the 
Wine Ministerial Advisory Committee.
  6. To undertake vineyard inspections to enable gazettal of the Mornington Peninsula region 
as a Phylloxera Exclusion Zone (PEZ) and have the region recognised as such by industry and trading partners.

Areas of common focus

At Vinehealth Australia, we welcome this funding boost to improve the adoption of best practice biosecurity measures. This is a common goal and we will work collaboratively with Agriculture Victoria to this end. Vinehealth Australia has made a significant investment over the past 18 months to improve awareness and understanding of best practice farm-gate hygiene in the face of increasing biosecurity threats, including phylloxera. Consistent messaging across the wine sector in relation to farm-gate hygiene and phylloxera prevention activities is vital.

Key to the effective management of phylloxera is the timely translation of new science to industry and regulators. Vinehealth Australia will facilitate this through its role as collaborator and chair of the Industry Reference Group for the newly established three-year Wine Australia/Agriculture Victoria-funded research project titled ‘Integrated management of established grapevine phylloxera’.

Action required

We note the intent of project six to survey the Mornington Peninsula with a view to upgrading its status from a Phylloxera Risk Zone (PRZ) to a Phylloxera Exclusion Zone (PEZ).

Firstly, we encourage surveillance for phylloxera by all states and winegrowing regions. Every effort should be made to better understand where phylloxera is and isn’t in Australia, and to contain this destructive insect within the existing Phylloxera Infested Zones (PIZ).

However, the current procedure for upgrading the status of a phylloxera zone forms part of the 2009 National Phylloxera Management Protocol (NPMP). The NPMP is an agreed standard for managing the movement of risk vectors to minimise the risk of spreading phylloxera and includes procedures for the maintenance of PEZ zones and for upgrading the status of zones.

It is Vinehealth Australia’s position that the NPMP requires immediate review.

Vinehealth Australia is strongly advocating to all organisations involved in phylloxera management, for an urgent review of the NPMP to incorporate new science and to reflect contemporary biosecurity principles. Without this review and the development of a national management plan for phylloxera, there is an increased risk to industry that phylloxera will continue to spread.

Vinehealth Australia will continue to work with the National Viticulture Biosecurity Committee, wine industry organisations and state jurisdictions in coming months, to establish a transparent process for the review of the NPMP and to develop a national management plan for phylloxera.

Additionally, Vinehealth Australia has already commenced work on (1) a risk assessment of the introduction, establishment and spread of phylloxera in SA, (2) ramping up SA’s surveillance program for phylloxera, (3) reviewing SA’s plant quarantine standards, and (4) improving SA’s outbreak management plan for phylloxera.

We have important work ahead of us and we will be seeking your support in coming months to provide insights and feedback.

We will keep you informed of our activities and progress, as we continue to push for a review of the National Phylloxera Management Protocol to ensure that the destruction of grapevines by phylloxera is prevented.