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New appraoch to detecting Phylloxera

Testing for Phylloxera is about to move into the 21st century and become a lot more accessible.

The potential is enormous – not just to find where Phylloxera is, but to keep checking that areas such as the wine growing areas of the Central Tablelands that are declared Phylloxera-free remain that way.

The Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of SA and research partners are making great strides with a project to develop sampling strategies for sensitive, accurate and cost-effective detection of Phylloxera that can be used in any vineyard by almost anyone. These strategies can then be used for Phylloxera management and quantifying area freedom status.

The technology used for identifying Phylloxera in vineyards hasn't changed since the 19th century. It's essentially a shovel and a magnifying glass and you go looking, based largely on sites of low vigour. Aerial surveying, which has been used in recent years assists in identifying potential trouble spots. The problem is that it is costly and you still need to confirm trouble spots with a shovel and magnifying glass.

The current four-year project, funded by AGWA and the Plant Biosecurity CRC was set up in early 2013 to develop a vineyard sampling protocol to collect soil samples that could be analysed through the DNA assay. In its third year, over 500 soil samples have been collected using a simple corer from trial sites in the Yarra Valley, King Valley and Rutherglen, with samples being analysed back at SARDI, Work continues to validate and fine tune the findings to ensure a robust protocol for use by industry.

By the end of this year, protocols will have been worked out to get endorsement for the concept and the protocols at a national level.