A newly-discovered outbreak of the vine-killing bug phylloxera is threatening over 70% of Australia’s Yarra Valley vines.
The insect, which attaches itself to vine roots and eventually cuts off nutrients to the plant, was discovered a week ago in a Foster’s-owned 32ha vineyard in the Coldstream area.
The infected vineyard is now under quarantine.
Less than 30% of the Yarra Valley, one of Australia’s most prestigious wine regions and home to around 100 wineries, is planted on disease-resistant rootstock, making it particularly vulnerable.
Phylloxera will spread with great speed if left unchecked, but is very difficult to detect early on. A vine can suffer for two years before any symptoms are visible.
‘We’ve got a removal and destruction plan ready to go,’ said Foster’s spokesman Troy Hey. ‘It’s just waiting on the Department of Primary Industries to go ahead.’
The department is investigating the outbreak, asking growers within the area about their viticultural practices.
‘We will be declaring a control area around the infested vineyard with an approximate five kilometre radius,’ said Andrew Evans, the department’s principal officer for biosecurity.
Evans said it would take several months to find out whether the pest has spread and vineyards within the control area will not be able to move plant material or machinery out of the area.
The discovery is a further blow for the region, which lost an estimated 40% of its grape production to severe October frosts.
Michael Matthews, Chairman of the Victorian Wine Industry Association, said the Department of Primary Industry needs to do more to stop the phylloxera from spreading.
‘There’s a protocol where the DPI is supposed to go through all the wine regions and declare them free of phylloxera,’ he said. ‘Only half of this has been done.’
Written by Felicity Carter