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16/12/2008

Prompt response to latest Yarra Valley phylloxera sites

By John Kennedy Correspondent, Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker

Victoria’s Department of Primary Industries is anticipating having its responses to the two further phylloxera outbreaks in the Yarra Valley gazetted by mid January following the completion of a further survey of the region’s vineyards.

This follows a public meeting held at Lilydale on December 15 attended by about 150 interested growers and the responses to a survey undertaken by the local growers association.

It is anticipated that the existing Maroondah Phylloxera Infested Zone originally established to take in vineyards within close proximity to the first site, the Beavis vineyard owned by Fosters in St Huberts Road Coldstream, where the initial infestation was discovered early last year.

That vineyard has since seen the vineyard effectively abandoned and the vines poisoned with the intention of permanent removal although only a relatively small area of vines was affected. Subsequently poorly performing vines were identified in the Combe Farm Vineyard virtually immediately opposite but the newest identified problem area is on the opposite side of the Valley across the Yarra River near Yarra Glen at the Racecourse Vineyard of the Yarra Ridge group.

Yarra Valley Winegrowers Association general manager Richard Howden said that his industry members were pressing for a fast determination of the DPI response because vintage is not all that far away.

“Biosecurity is a key issue for the Valley growers and the well-attended public meeting produced lots of ideas and viewpoints from our growers.

“I think everyone is keen to see the controls tightened up even though they come at a cost to growers.

“Also everyone would like an explanation as to how phylloxera spreads although there is probably no common or simple cause.”

It was reported to me that one of the causes may have been sheep which were winter grazed on several vineyards and thus may have transferred the infestation.

In response to this another grower suggested that if the sheep weren’t the cause may be rabbits were as they obviously moved about the Valley!

It is understood that the DPI resources are under some strain currently because a large number of Departmental personnel are involved with locust surveys throughout the northern and north central parts of Victoria.

Both the YWGA and the DPI have stressed that the phylloxera has no effect on grapes or wines and is not a public health issue.

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