New Board Chair Dianne Davidson AM is well known to the grape and wine community. Raised in Langhorne Creek, Di is an agricultural scientist who founded the highly regarded company Davidson Viticulture in 1987.
Di and her team provided consulting and management services to table and wine grape producers throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Canada and India until 2012.
Di also has significant experience in irrigated agriculture, as well as natural resource management, particularly the management of water, soils and native vegetation.
As a vineyard owner, Di has first-hand knowledge of wine industry pressures, including biosecurity threats.
“It is so important that we keep anything that’s not native to Australia, out of Australia,” Di said. “Biosecurity is bigger than just phylloxera.
“I was the Director of the CRC for Plant Biosecurity for five years from 2014. One of the things we were very worried about was red fire ants. At that time, they were confined to Southeast Queensland, but were spreading rapidly.
“Now they’re in New South Wales and they’re horrible things. Humans can’t live and work around them. If they suddenly came to one of our wine regions, they would cause significant issues for visitors to our cellar doors and vineyard workers.
“So it’s not just about keeping the pests that impact vines or winemakers out of SA. It’s the broader things that could come in and change our landscape.”
The new Vinehealth board met for the first time on Monday 11 December and selected Di as its Chair.
Di applied to be a Director of Vinehealth Australia to contribute to the success of the South Australian grape and wine industry and help tackle some of the current pressures facing growers.
“It’s not just the loss of the China market that’s hurting the industry right now, but I think people are drinking less, I think wineries are much more particular in what they want grown and by whom, so contracts will be harder to find, and pricing will be very hard for a long time,” Di said.
“Unfortunately, I think we will see much more vineyard abandonment in our industry. As the times get tougher, some people will abandon their vineyards or spend less money and time on them. That’s another open door for pest, disease and weed problems for vines. We need to manage this issue collectively as an industry.
“Vinehealth must continue to educate the industry, new players especially, about not taking your eye off the ball for a moment and notifying Vinehealth or PIRSA about anything in your vineyard that you don’t want to be there.”
Di said the industry must also be vigilant about large machinery coming across the border to assist with vine removal.
“We will see bulldozers and bigger equipment in regions for cleaning up the landscape as the vines are pulled out and the land is converted to other crops,” Di said.
“The contractors coming into the regions wouldn’t necessarily know about phylloxera and other key grapevine pests. I think declining conditions in our wine industry are a high risk in the biosecurity space.
“I want to see continued dedicated work and interaction with regional associations and regional grower groups. I think that engagement with the industry and really understanding what’s changing in the industry as deeply as we can, from the very small grower’s perspective, as well as the larger and the corporates’ perspectives, is vital.
“We also need to keep a close eye on the development of the new South Australian Biosecurity Bill and ensure that anything we are worried about as an industry is addressed.”
Di has served on many industry boards throughout her career and is the author of two well-loved books in the viticulture industry: A Guide to Growing Winegrapes in Australia (1992) and The Business of Vineyards (2001).
In 2015, Di was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to the wine industry, horticulture management, and higher education administration.