Agriculture Victoria scientists win award

By Country News

Agriculture Victoria research scientists have taken out the 2018 Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Best Viticultural Paper of the Year Award for their research into an insect affecting grape vines.

The research, which was conducted by scientists at Agriculture Victoria’s Rutherglen research facility and the Centre for AgriBioscience in Bundoora, recommends an enhanced approach to tackling grape phylloxera and revised nationwide regulations for the management of the ‘‘number-one biosecurity threat to Australia’s grapevines’’.

The ASVO judging panel deemed the potential industry application of the research as the most significant among 55 research papers published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research since October last year. Agriculture Victoria research scientist and lead author on the paper Dr Catherine Clarke said she was honoured to receive the award and grateful for the attention it had drawn to the importance of farm gate hygiene in containing phylloxera.

‘‘Phylloxera is an insect pest that can decimate a vineyard within a few years and is a major biosecurity threat to the Australian wine and grape industry,’’ she said.

‘‘As there is no known eradication method, containment of the pest involves effective disinfestation, using bleach and water rinsing, according to protocols stipulated in the National Phylloxera Management Protocol.

‘‘Our research suggests an urgent need to change the current footwear and small tools disinfestation protocols.’’

The group’s research found that more than 50 per cent of phylloxera across six genetically diverse strains survived and developed to reproductive adults under the current recommended dosage of bleach and duration of water immersion outlined in the NPMP.

‘‘We were able to achieve 100 per cent mortality by removing the water rinse and increasing the immersion time,’’ Dr Clarke said.

‘‘Our study also showed that different genetic strains of phylloxera respond differently to bleach treatments, so it is vital to adhere to disinfestation protocols in infested vineyards to slow down the spread of virulent genetic strains.

‘‘These outcomes have significant input to the ongoing NPMP review.’’

The research was co-funded by Agriculture Victoria and Wine Australia.