With more detailed measures having been outlined in the new Condition 7 in SA PQS Version 17 in relation to the cleaning of used grape harvesters, we thought it was timely for a chat with a local about harvester washdowns. 

We caught up with Mark Vella and Nic Reynolds from Vitiworks in May, to talk about their end of season harvester cleaning program. Vitiworks is a vineyard management company that manages vineyards across the Adelaide Hills.

When cleaning harvesters post-harvest, Mark’s team removes all belts, covers and guards. Then the dismantled parts and the machine are cleaned with a high-pressure hose using Farm Mate detergent mixed with water.

“Washing down harvesters between vineyards during vintage and at the end of vintage is part of our standard operating procedures,” Mark said.

“But I wonder how many people are washing down harvesters properly. In my experience, harvesters are very hard to clean completely of soil and plant material. There are so many little hidey holes.

“Even after we’ve done our end of season clean, which takes a week per machine, we know there are still small bits of grape material which remain, escaping this cleaning process.”

The vineyards managed by Vitiworks are all within the Adelaide Hills GI, ranging from Lobethal in the north to Mount Bold in the south. Mark says restricting his machinery and staff to one viticultural region is also good biosecurity practice.

“There is a lot of movement of people and machinery across regions and states now, and that means there’s more risk of a pest like phylloxera being brought into South Australia and then spreading,” Mark said.

“To reduce the risk, everyone needs to be cleaning machinery and equipment properly, cleaning their shoes properly and thinking about where they’ve been before.”

How to clean a harvester

In version 17 (effective from 21 July 2020) of the Plant Quarantine Standard for South Australia, a procedure for cleaning used grape harvesters is provided. To effectively clean a harvester:

  1. Remove any parts of the harvester that may hold and hide vineyard soil and plant material. This includes all harvester belts (discharge, cross feed, transfer, pick up and elevator belts) and covers or guards that have been designed to open or completely detach from the harvester frame. These are termed ‘dismantled parts’.
  2. Thoroughly clean the harvester and all dismantled parts with a steam cleaner, pressure washer or air hose to ensure all vineyard soil and plant material is completely removed. Clean the inside, outside, top of harvester and cabin. Start at the top so that vineyard soil and plant materials doesn’t wash back over areas that have already been cleaned. Pay particular attention to areas where material can get caught or carried inside the machine, including fans, conveyor belts, baskets (buckets), bow rods/beaters, fish plates, onboard deleafers, destemmers, hoppers and sorting tables.

While this cleaning procedure is relevant to all harvesters regardless of where they are located, in some cases, there is a requirement to follow cleaning with sterilisation using heat treatment before moving the machine. Consult your state biosecurity department to confirm biosecurity requirements relevant to your situation.