Man’s best friend may be phyl­lox­era’s worst en­emy

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

A PI­LOT project has Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria sci­en­tists work­ing with snif­fer dogs and the tiny in­sect phyl­lox­era (Dak­tu­losphaira vi­ti­fo­liae), the world’s worst grapevine pest.

Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria prin­ci­pal re­search sci­en­tist Kevin Pow­ell, with spe­cial­ist dog trainer Craig Mur­ray and his 20 month old Labradors, Glory and Mamba, has be­gun a pi­lot project to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of dogs be­ing used as a novel early de­tec­tion ap­proach to de­tect phyl­lox­era.

“Vic­to­ria’s grape grow­ing in­dus­try sup­plies three dis­tinct do­mes­tic and ex­port mar­kets – wine, dried and ta­ble, the wine in­dus­try with the dom­i­nat­ing share, con­tribut­ing over $ 1.5 bil­lion per an­num to the state’s econ­omy,” Dr Pow­ell said.

“Grape phyl­lox­era is the num­ber one threat to our fruit and wine pro­duc­ing grapevines in Aus­tralia.

“Phyl­lox­era is a tiny yel­low in­sect that mostly feeds on the roots of grapevines and even­tu­ally kills the vine.

“The only pro­tec­tion is planting vines on re­sis­tant root­stocks, and the lat­est fig­ures show that no more than 15 per cent of Aus­tralia’s vines are on root­stocks.

If phyl­lox­era is de­tected, a quar­an­tine zone is es­tab­lished to re­strict the spread of the pest.

“There­fore, if we can iden- tify in­fes­ta­tions ear­lier, this will re­strict the spread and lower the im­pact on the in­dus­try and grow­ers can start to re­plant onto re­sis­tant root­stocks.”

Dr Pow­ell said the cur­rent pro­cesses for de­tect­ing phyl­lox­era are labour and time in­ten­sive.

“The process re­quires repet­i­tive dig­ging along vine rows, to depth, to in­spect sec­tions of roots us­ing mag­ni­fiers to see if phyl­lox­era can be dis­cov­ered.

“We are at the very start of the project, and have em­ployed a dog train­ing spe­cial­ist and his two dogs, to es­tab­lish whether ei­ther phyl­lox­era, and/or in­fested vines give off an odour or scent that dogs can de­tect.”

SNIIF ‘EM OUT: Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria has be­gun a pi­lot project to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of dogs be­ing used as an early de­tec­tion ap­proach to de­tect phyl­lox­era.

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