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By Kath Gannaway

The views of growers, vineyard managers and other interested industry stakeholders, from small hobby enthusiasts to multi-national companies, are being sought on changing the existing, segmented, Phylloxera Infested Zone (PIZ) across the Yarra Valley wine-growing region.

Agriculture Victoria and the Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association (YVWGA) are working together on the survey which seeks views on a range of potential options for the Maroondah PIZ boundary, and how any change may affect their approach to best practice on-farm biosecurity across the Yarra Valley Geographic Indicator (GI).

The first infestation by the tiny yellow insect that destroys grapevines by damaging their roots was detected in the Yarra Valley in 2006.

Despite strict protocols and an awareness campaign over the past decade, the number of infestations has grown to more than 38 with the lengthy lead-time for symptoms to appear in infected vineyards meaning that number could be even higher.

Agriculture Victoria’s Chief Plant Health Officer, Dr Rosa Crnov, said the department is supporting the YVWGA’s move to hear the voice of local industry before any decision is made regarding the merits of expanding the existing PIZ boundary.

“After completing the survey, the YVWGA and Agriculture Victoria will evaluate the possibility of expanding the existing boundary of the Maroondah PIZ to include other areas currently recognised as the Phylloxera Risk Zone (PRZ).”

She said the survey would help inform the industry’s decision-making for phylloxera management in the Valley.

“Better phylloxera management within the infested zone will lead to reduced regulatory and compliance burdens on growers and will help enhance productivity in the region,” Dr Crnov said.

Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association Executive Officer Caroline Evans said only best practice on-farm biosecurity measures can contain and prevent further spread of phylloxera.

“The Yarra Valley produces some of Victoria’s most popular wines so changing the Phylloxera Infested Zone boundary will ensure local wineries have the incentive to invest in the future and produce wonderful wines,” Ms Evans said.

The survey is supported by local producers and YVWGA members Franco D’Anna, owner of Hoddles Creek Estate, and Andy Clarke, Chief Viticulturist at Yering Station.

Mr D’Anna said the onus is on growers to make sure phylloxera doesn’t spread and said the survey offered the industry the chance to get the zoning right, and potentially move away from the dual PIZ/PRZ zoning to one zone.

“The last time growers were surveyed was in 2008 and there was a move to keep the five-kilometre zone around the infected vineyards – the PIZ zone.

“Now, with over 38 infections, we want to give people another say,” Mr D’Anna said.

He said the proposal was not only about protecting the Yarra Valley industry, but about protecting other regions.

“For someone who is outside the current PIZ, they can take equipment and fruit outside to other regions.

“We know the Yarra Valley has phylloxera, but we want to protect other regions and we think this is an option so we need to give our members every chance to say what the future will look like rather than have it dictated to us,” he said.

Mr Clarke said the Yarra Valley is the only region in Australia that has the two zones within the one GI.

“Currently most of the production is within the PIZ, but with the capacity for people within the neighbouring Yarra PRZ to move fruit to another PRZ, there is a risk (of spreading infestation).

He said incremental change over the past few years had created some uncertainty.

“By putting in one management zone now and moving it to encompass all production, it removes that uncertainty.

“This doesn’t mean phylloxera will move faster or slower within the PIZ; irrespective of whether or not the industry choose to expand the zone, it still falls back on each individual land owner to manage their biosecurity.”

YVWGA will receive an email link to the survey. Non-members can access the survey via the Agriculture Victoria, YVWGA and the Victorian Viticulture Biosecurity Committee websites – https://engage.vic.gov.au/yarra-valley-piz-boundary-extension-project.

Closing date for the survey is 15 June, 2018.

Growers can improve their biosecurity by registering for a Property Identification Code in accordance with requirements of the Plant Biosecurity Act 2010.

Funding to extend phylloxera exclusion zones is available through the Victorian Government’s $4.08 million Victorian Wine Industry Development Strategy.

For more information visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/tacklingphylloxera

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