Vine shoots are rapidly expanding in vineyards around the state, and vineyard activity is picking up as growers begin to prepare for vintage 2024. From spraying and post replacement, to irrigation and vine training, spring is a busy time in vineyards.
Between the vineyard jobs, spring is also a good time to review your biosecurity practices for the season ahead. Best practice farm-gate hygiene can stop the spread of weeds, diseases, and pests including phylloxera.
To assist you, Vinehealth Australia has compiled a list of top 10 farm-gate hygiene activities. If you can tick off these 10 key activities, you are doing your bit to keep your vines safe and you are contributing to the security of the Australian wine industry.
- I regularly review my links with interstate vineyards, wineries, contractors and suppliers. I always abide by my state’s quarantine regulations for the movement of grapes, grape products, machinery and other risk items between Phylloxera Management Zones and states to minimise the risk of the introduction and spread of phylloxera.
- I provide training on hygiene protocols to all staff, including contract and casual labour. I include farm-gate hygiene requirements in my staff induction processes. I train vineyard staff in effective vineyard monitoring, what to look for and the importance of reporting anything unusual. My staff are familiar with the locations of Phylloxera Infested Zones and Phylloxera Risk Zones in Australia.
- I understand that visitors can track unwanted pests, diseases and weeds into and through my vineyard. I restrict access to my property with fences and gates. I limit the number of entry points to my property.
- I use signs to advise restrictions of entry to my property. I use farm-gate signs for operational entrances, asking visitors to report on entry to the vineyard office and I include a contact number for the site manager. I use consumer-friendly signs for tourist entrances such as cellar door, restaurant and accommodation areas. I clearly convey visitor expectations on my signs, such as ‘Please don’t walk amongst my vines’.
- I require all visitors to report to my vineyard office on arrival at my property, so I can assess what risk they pose in introducing pests, diseases and weeds to my vineyard. I ensure access to vines only under controlled conditions. I keep a visitor log, recording vineyard regions each visitor has visited for at least the 29 days prior and check whether there has been a visit to a vineyard in a Phylloxera Infested Zone or a Phylloxera Risk Zone in Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland.
- I do not allow unauthorised vehicles to drive within my vineyard as they can pick up and spread pests, diseases and weeds. I provide parking for visitor vehicles away from vines on a hard pack surface. If visitors must enter the vineyard, I provide a vineyard vehicle for use. If the visitor vehicle must enter the vineyard for operational purposes, I determine which vineyard regions the vehicle has visited in the past month and allow entry only under controlled conditions.
- I regularly inspect my vines for anything unusual. I know the high priority exotic pests and diseases and regulated endemic pests (including grape phylloxera) for the grape and wine industries. I know what times of the season I may see these different pests or diseases and I time my monitoring activities accordingly. I take pictures of what I see so that I can verify my findings. I know where to seek help to identify what the problem is, and I do so willingly because I understand the potential impact of an outbreak of a high priority plant pest. I report anything unusual to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or to Vinehealth Australia.
- I ensure machinery and equipment is clean of all soil and plant material upon entry and exit of my vineyard. I ensure that it complies with state quarantine regulations before entering my vineyard and is accompanied by the required documentation that specifies mandatory sterilisation where it applies. I provide a wash down facility to enable cleaning of machinery and equipment before it leaves my property.
- I acknowledge the risk that footwear and clothing can pose in picking up and spreading pests, diseases and weeds. I evaluate the risk of footwear and clothing and only allow vine access under controlled conditions depending on where the footwear and clothing has been worn for at least the 29 days prior. I ensure all people who come onto my property either disinfest their footwear upon entry and exit in accordance with the Footwear and Small Hand Tool Disinfestation Protocol, or I provide ‘safe shoes’ such as property rubber boots or work boots. I follow guidelines in Vinehealth Australia’s ‘Biosecurity Planning for Vineyard Owners Hosting Visitors’ fact sheet for managing clothing.
- I plant with pest free propagation material to prolong the health of my vineyard and provide me the greatest chance of producing the yield and quality desired. When I buy planting material, I verify its health status by asking for a documented history of virus test results from source blocks or mother vines. I do not accept propagation material of unknown origin. I also ask for proof of the nursery’s accreditation. I always conduct virus testing of both scion and rootstock before I consider top working or grafting. If I experience vine health issues with my newly planted or grafted vines, I immediately notify my nursery and conduct testing to identify the problem.