It was another busy year for Vinehealth Australia and biosecurity in general in 2019/20. To keep you up to date with some of our recent work across the themes of preparedness, prevention and response, which has resulted in practical wins for the South Australian grape and wine industries, we’ve created a Snapshot document.

“We focus on delivering practical biosecurity benefits to vineyard owners, winemakers and all members of the grape and wine supply chain while assisting with all facets of biosecurity,” said Inca Lee, Vinehealth Australia CEO.

“Our aim is to keep South Australian vineyards healthy and profitable into the long term.”

Getting you ready

  • We took 35 members of the wine industry to the Yarra Valley in November 2019 to see and hear firsthand about the impacts of phylloxera on that region. We learnt about the rate of spread of the pest and the low levels of replanting on phylloxera tolerant rootstocks and the impacts this is forecast to have on wine supply for the region in the medium term. This tour reinforced the importance of access for growers to high health planting material and has led to the development of a rootstock supply and demand project, which is soon to be started.
  • We have educated hundreds of cellar door and visitor centre staff across multiple wine regions through our Responsible Visitation Program on how to talk to visitors about biosecurity, how to effectively restrict access to vines and what visitor programs to offer that don’t compromise the health of vineyards.
  • We have made fit-for-purpose footwear disinfestation kits for vineyard owners and contractors containing all the required materials and instructions for use.
  • We have organised and participated in two large phylloxera outbreak simulations to help plan for an outbreak. We are using learnings from these simulations to strengthen SA’s Phylloxera Outbreak Plan which we are writing now.
  • We conducted a biosecurity risk assessment for a winery to identify priority risk areas for improvement as part of the business’ biosecurity plan. This work has led to a number of activities which will ultimately benefit all members of the SA wine industry.
  • We continue our involvement in the long-standing Coonawarra Rootstock Trial run in partnership with Treasury Wine Estates and Coonawarra Vignerons Association. Vintage 2019 marked the first year of small lot winemaking for the trial and enabled evaluation of wine and viticulture parameters as we work to better understand rootstocks and their importance as a management and recovery tool to reduce biosecurity risk. We’re now looking to shape the next phase of the trial.

Protecting your livelihood

  • We have translated science into practice for the benefit of industry by increasing the required duration of dry heat treatment for sterilising machinery and equipment conducted at 40˚C from 2 to 3 hours. This change better ensures the effectiveness of this treatment against known key endemic phylloxera strains. We worked with authorities in other states to ensure this change was adopted nationally.
  • Based on science, we successfully recommended the removal of steam as a valid sterilisation method for machinery and equipment being imported into SA. This decision was based on the likelihood that steam sterilisation is not carried out effectively in practice.
  • We also successfully recommended that the entry into SA of vineyard posts, vine guards, dripper tube and wire previously used in grape production be prohibited. In practice, these items cannot be effectively cleaned of soil and vine material so are a risk for spreading unwanted pests and diseases into vineyards.
  • We led a comprehensive review of the phylloxera-related conditions in South Australia’s Plant Quarantine Standard (PQS), to strengthen our border. These changes were incorporated into a consolidated Condition 7 in the South Australian PQS Version 17, active from 21 July 2020.
  • We provide regular and timely quarantine advice across the supply chain on how to comply with import requirements for items that can pick up and spread phylloxera and other significant pests and diseases, such as machinery, equipment, grapes, juice and grapevines.
  • We regularly present on biosecurity at a range of industry and government forums to increase biosecurity awareness and action and to support regional initiatives.
  • We created a series of educational signs for cellar doors to inform visitors about the importance of not walking into vineyards to keep SA phylloxera free. These signs are being ordered and installed nationally.
  • We created vineyard-specific farm-gate biosecurity signs which are being ordered and installed nationally.
  • We maintain maps used nationally by industry and governments to identify the current location of the different phylloxera management zones in Australia.

Responding to threats

  • Alongside PIRSA-Biosecurity SA, our team promptly responds to biosecurity incidents and outbreaks to minimise impacts on vine health and grape and wine production.
  • We continue to work with PIRSA – Biosecurity SA during fruit fly outbreaks that affect viticultural regions, to develop clear movement conditions that grape and wine supply chain businesses must comply with and we communicate these conditions with affected businesses.
  • We publish a monthly e-newsletter and Biosecurity Alerts as needed to keep you up to date with key biosecurity information and threats.
  • We continue to maintain and operate a dry heat treatment facility in Naracoorte to enable you to sterilise your machinery and equipment when moving between regions inside SA.
  • Using our Vineyard Register, we assisted PIRSA during the recent Cudlee Creek and Kangaroo Island bushfires to inform government response activities. The Vineyard Register is a powerful database of every vineyard planted of 0.5 hectares or more in size in South Australia.
  • We continue to act as a vital conduit between the Department for Environment and Water and growers during prescribed burns occurring in the Adelaide Hills and Mount Lofty Ranges Region. We use our Vineyard Register to contact growers to advise of an imminent prescribed burn, determine harvest status and work with regional wine associations and authorities to ensure the timing of these burns minimises the risk of smoke taint to unharvested grapes.
  • We commissioned and managed the completion of a comprehensive review of Grapevine Pinot gris virus (GPGV) to improve Australia’s knowledge base of this newly described virus and to enact an appropriate response. We extended the outcomes to the nursery and vine improvement sector nationally prior to the 2019 propagation season, to enhance production of high health planting material for industry.