Australia’s understanding of grapevine viruses has been given a boost, following a meeting of the best minds in virus research in the world.

Dr Fiona Constable, a senior plant virologist from Agriculture Victoria, attended the 19th Conference of the International Council for the Study of Virus and Virus-like Diseases of the Grapevine (ICVG) in Santiago Chile last week. The conference was attended by more than 100 grapevine and phytoplasma experts from around the world, including Australia’s Vinay Pagay, Lecturer in Viticulture at The University of Adelaide.

Major themes of the event included:

  • Virus and phytoplasma epidemiology; including spread, vector biology, pathogen diversity and disease distribution;
  • Interactions between virus and phytoplasma and their hosts with an emphasis on plant defence responses to infection and vine performance and fruit quality; and
  • Diagnostics, including the rapid development of high throughput sequencing technology for virus detection and discovery.

“A highlight of the meeting was the application of many of these themes to improve understanding of the diseases associated with viruses and phytoplasmas including an increased understanding of grapevine pinot gris virus (GPGV) and its role in grapevine leaf mottling and deformation disease,” Fiona said.

GPGV was first detected in Australia in 2016, and industry bodies have been working hard to understand its spread and impact.

At the conference, Fiona was able to discuss timing and reliability of testing for GPGV with a number of international virologists and is bringing back new knowledge to inform Australian laboratory diagnostics practices, to reduce the chance of false negative results. Other information gained will help us build a picture of how to best manage GPGV in Australia.

Currently, the GPGV testing service for the grape and wine industries is carried out at AgriBio-Centre for AgriBioscience, the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and TASAG.

Dr Fiona Constable (BSc Hons, LTU; PhD, UA) is the Senior Plant Virologist in the Plant Microbiology Group and for Crop Health Services diagnostic service of Agriculture Victoria. Fiona has considerable experience in the epidemiology of virus, viroids and phytoplasma associated diseases and development of rapid and reliable molecular diagnostic tests for these pathogens in various crops, including grapevines.