Managing abandoned vineyards or orchards
Under the current economic conditions, which include the cut-backs to processing fruit contracts, many growers face difficult decisions regarding the future of their farms. This page describes obligations and options for landholders to manage biosecurity risks on their properties, should they decide to wholly or partially cease production
On-farm biosecurity is critical to minimising the risk of plant pests and diseases. Abandoned or neglected vineyards or orchards are a potential host of pests and diseases and can be a significant concern for neighbouring properties. Farm owners have a legal obligation to manage pests, diseases and weeds on their vineyard or orchard.
If trees or vines are to be retained, they still need to be managed to minimise biosecurity risks. Control programs for pests, diseases and weeds must be maintained in a manner appropriate to seasonal conditions. Any unpicked fruit should be knocked to the ground and mulched to minimise the risk of propagating pests, such as fruit fly.
The best option for abandoned vineyards or orchards is for the property owner to kill and/or remove the vines or trees. This is essential because neglected host plants can harbour pests and diseases. The following actions are recommended.
In order to minimise the spread of pests and diseases, vines should be cut off around 30cm above ground level, ideally in late spring. It is preferable to remove and burn the upper part of the vine so it does not provide a source of infection for trunk diseases, although dead vines could be left in situ on the trellis system. Leaving some of the lower stump provides a leverage point which may be useful when removing the vine.
If the stumps are to be left in the ground, it is recommended to paste the trunk stump with a systemic herbicide emulsion immediately after cutting to control the growth of suckers.
Trellis posts treated with copper chrome arsenate (CCA) or creosote (e.g. some types of treated pine) must not be burnt or buried because they can release toxic chemicals - this material must be disposed of at a licensed landfill.
The first priority for abandoned orchards is for the owner to kill the trees and remove the plant hosts for pests and diseases. The quickest way to kill trees is to cut them down, leaving some of the trunk to assist stump removal. Ring-barking of trees with a chainsaw will kill the tops, but the rootstock may produce suckers that will need to be controlled. Trees can also be poisoned with herbicides, however this process is slower.
The most efficient way to remove orchard trees is to use an excavator to dig them out.
Please note: If orchard operators stockpile dead trees on their properties with the intention of later disposal, they should also seek advice from their local council on appropriate disposal methods, particularly if they are considering burning material.
If growers wish to partially or entirely abandon a vineyard or orchard, they need to consider the risks that uncontrolled pests and diseases from their property may present to surrounding producers. This requirement also applies to a land holder who may have taken over or purchased an orchard site but doesn't want to manage the planting for horticultural purposes, e.g. with a view to redevelopment.
If a producer is being impacted by a neighbouring neglected orchard/vineyard, the matter can be pursued by referring it to the Customer Service Centre (see link below) which will trigger a process to assess the case and may ultimately involve department inspectors.
If a technical assessment of the neglected orchard/vineyard confirms the presence of a declared pest or disease, inspectors from the department can issue an 'Infested Land Notice' under Section 25 of the Plant Biosecurity Act 2010. Directions in this Notice may include the destruction of plants or eradication of the pest or disease at the owner's expense. Penalties for non-compliance apply.
For further information, please contact us.