Alert on grape virus
Pinot yields under threat
TASMANIAN growers of Pinot wine varieties will take part in national testing for a devastating new virus.
The virus, recently detected interstate, can reduce yields by 80 per cent.
The grapevine pinot gris virus was recently found in NSW and South Australia after first being identified overseas in 2012.
The virus most commonly affects varieties including Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, which make up more than half of Tasmania’s winegrape crop that is worth $36 million annually.
The state has built its growing reputation for premium-quality wine largely on its Pinot Noir, which is also used for award-winning sparkling wines.
The new virus is yet to be detected in Tasmania but local growers will be invited to join urgent national testing this spring.
“We’re proactively going to be involved in some of that trial activity,” Wine Tasmania chief executive Sheralee Davies said.
“We’re confident there hasn’t been any detection in Tasmania but we also know that we need to participate in the trials to do the appropriate testing.”
Little is known about the virus, which was first found in Italy but has also emerged throughout Europe, Asia and North America.
However, the virus has been confirmed in at least 28 grape varieties so far.
The affected grape varieties also include Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
The virus is thought to be transmitted by some species of mites.
Its symptoms occur at budburst in spring and include leaf mottling and leaf deformation.
Common weeds such as fat-hen can also carry the virus.
However, Ms Davies said growers had an advantage because the virus was thought to be slow-moving.
“It’s not where you might have a vine that has an issue and all of a sudden all of the surrounding vines therefore have an issue,” she said.
“The biggest impact is a reduction on yield.
“That’s certainly been the experience in the places it has been detected around the world.”
Screening at Australian borders began in 2015 and the Australian Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests, which includes Biosecurity Tasmania, has met to discuss the outbreak.
Wine Tasmania is working with Biosecurity Tasmania to minimise the chances of the disease arriving in the state.
“Biosecurity Tasmania is monitoring the situation very closely,” a spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said.
“Until more is known about the situation, no states, including Tasmania, have implemented new import requirements.
The spokesman said viruscertification schemes were the best way to ensure propagation material was clean.
He said further information on the virus would be provided as new details are available and once the targeted national surveillance program this spring is completed.
Grape producers are urged to be vigilant for signs of the virus and to call the plant disease hotline on 1800 084 881 if they have concerns.