Phil the Phylloxera Guy was a hit at the 2018 Royal Adelaide Show, appearing at the PIRSA stand in the Farm Expo Pavilion, crashing wine tastings in the Cellar Door Experience stand, being interviewed live on air by ABC Adelaide and visiting the Stock Journal stand. Phil also posed for dozens of selfies, including with the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le.
The anti-hero of Vinehealth Australia’s Who’s Hitchhiking With You? campaign, Phil focused on telling show-goers about how pests can damage or kill grapevines, and what visitors to wine regions can do to help.
It’s part of the wider Responsible Visitation Campaign (RVC), which is part-funded by PIRSA. The RVC aims to educate visitors to wine regions with the key message of the campaign being: Please don’t walk amongst our vines.
Vinehealth Australia conducted a mock interview with Phil the Phylloxera Guy at the PIRSA stand, which got the crowd laughing and helped to educate them about South Australia’s phylloxera free vines. A transcript of the interview is below.
“We know Phil is a bit silly, but we also know that humour is a great way to cut through and get people’s attention, especially when dealing with a serious topic like biosecurity,” said Inca Pearce, Vinehealth Australia CEO.
“And being at The Show for a day was a nice change for the Vinehealth Australia team, who are much more used to being surrounded by growers and vines, than showbags and fairy floss.”
If you’d like Phil the Phylloxera Guy to appear at a wine event that you’re organising, send a request to email@example.com.
Interview between Vinehealth Australia and Phil the Phylloxera Guy
VHA: Phil, it’s nice to see you here in SA. Actually, it’s not so nice. What are you doing here?
Phil: Don’t worry, I’m just visiting to spread the word about phylloxera and why you REALLY don’t want me and my pesky friends here in South Australia.
VHA: You look pretty cute. Why don’t we want phylloxera here?
Phil: Well, I’m quite proud of the fact that I destroy vineyards. I can kill vines in five to six years. And guess what, there’s nothing you humans can do to fix the vines I attack!
VHA: So, Phil, tell us a bit about yourself.
Phil: I’m a 1mm yellow insect that feeds on the roots of grapevines. I’m native to America, but I made my way to Europe on some vine cuttings in the late 19th century, and I pretty much destroyed the wine industry there. My relatives and I killed 90% of the vines in Europe. And I don’t even need a partner to reproduce, which makes me really dangerous!
VHA: Well, you’re right, we don’t want you in Australia!
Phil: It’s too late, I’m already in Victoria and New South Wales. I first popped up near Geelong in 1875, but now I’ve spread to other areas of Victoria and NSW. I just wish those mean growers in the Yarra would stop burning my friends alive in their heat sheds. So far, I haven’t been able to get into South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania. But you’re on my bucket list.
VHA: What would happen if you did get into SA?
Phil: Well, South Australia is paradise for me and my little yellow friends! Almost 75% of the vines here in SA are on their own roots, rather than phylloxera-resistant rootstock, which means they are susceptible to attack! Once I infest vines, they will die within six years. There is no treatment, so infested vineyards have to be pulled out and replanted.
VHA: So why haven’t you attacked South Australia?
Phil: Well, so far, I haven’t been able to get in! You control the movement of machinery across the border, and make sure it’s safe and clean, which means it’s hard for me to hitch a ride in dirt on a tractor or harvester. And you have laws to control the movement of grapevine material across the border, so I can’t come across on vines or grapes. And now that you’re telling people not to walk into vineyards, I can’t even hitch a ride on someone’s shoe. I have to give credit where credit’s due – you’re doing a good job of keeping me out.
VHA: Well, thanks Phil. You’ve really opened my eyes to phylloxera and why we really don’t want you in SA! Please stay away!