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21/11/2014

Trunk disease will have a 'bigger impact than phylloxera', warns expert

Speaking at the International Workshop on Grapevine Trunk Diseases in Adelaide yesterday, international vineyard consultant Dr Richard Smart claimed that grapevine trunk diseases may have a greater impact on the world’s vineyard than phylloxera had previously.

“This is because trunk diseases are more widespread than phylloxera, and there is presently no control for trunk diseases, but there is for phylloxera” Smart said.

He added that Australian grape and wine authorities and regulations were more concerned with phylloxera and virus diseases of grapevines and that trunk disease was a “sleeper” issue.

Recent surveys in Australia and New Zealand have shown that older vines are more prone to the disease and for some varieties the critical age is as young as 10 years.

Smart has calculated the average age of recent post 1988 plantings for Australia and New Zealand. The average age is 14 years in Australia, and eight years for New Zealand, so the next decade will see even more trunk disease damage, especially for Australia.

While New Zealand vines are younger, there is concern as French and Australian studies have shown Sauvignon Blanc to be one of the most susceptible cultivars to trunk disease, Smart said.

He also commented on the status of newly grafted vines he sees in his travels world wide.

“They are uniformly showing symptoms of trunk diseases” he said. “They can grow well when properly tended, but they appear more sensitive to stress and are potential sources of infection for the future”.

“This is a widespread problem” he told delegates at the workshop. “Nurseries all over the world, in Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand are producing vines with trunk disease symptoms. The long term implications are unclear”.

Smart said he had no doubt that methods will be developed in the next 10 years to overcome trunk disease, but the solution would not be as simple.

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