Best practice viticulture biosecurity

A man washing a farm truck.

Biosecurity issues that have the most importance to Victoria’s viticulture industry include the need to contain existing pests and diseases, for example, phylloxera, or prevent new pests and diseases such as Pierce's disease becoming established.

Grape growers need to ensure they implement best practice biosecurity measures (such as promoting best practice farm hygiene and monitoring the movement of their plant materials and equipment) to minimise the chances of either phylloxera or other pests and diseases becoming established.

How pests and diseases are spread

The biggest risks for transferring pests and diseases between vineyards are:

  • vineyard equipment and machinery
  • grape harvesting items
  • people and their vehicles
  • grapevine planting material.

Vineyard equipment and machinery

Vineyard equipment and machinery includes:

  • mechanical harvesters
  • tractors
  • spray equipment
  • bulldozers and back-hoes
  • leaf pluckers
  • pre-pruning machines
  • slashers
  • cutter bars.

Restrict access and practice good hygiene procedures

  1. Tell contractors in advance to clean and disinfest machinery before arrival, and make sure they are aware of their legal requirements.
  2. Check certification on machinery coming in to your vineyard to ensure it complies with the regulations.
  3. Inspect machinery visually. Do not allow any visibly dirty machinery to operate in your vineyard.
  4. Park trailers on hard stand areas and unload equipment well away from vines.
  5. Use a designated wash-down area, where water run-off cannot reach vines.
  6. Also consider installing a dedicated wash-down bay if you often have contractor machinery from other regions or states on to your property.
  7. Remove any parts of the machine that may hold dirt or plant fragments, and to provide access to remote areas of the machine.
  8. Thoroughly clean the machine or equipment, concentrating on the underside and other areas most likely to collect soil or plant fragments.
  9. Wash any associated equipment or vehicles –  particularly wheels and mudguards.
  10. For mechanical harvesters, disinfestation by dry heat is compulsory.

Mandatory dry heat treatment for mechanical harvesters

For mechanical harvesters, disinfestation by dry heat is compulsory.

Grape harvesting items

Grape harvesting items includes:

  • picking buckets
  • grape bins
  • bin trailers
  • bin cranes
  • trucks bringing grapes onto property.

Restrict access and practice good hygiene procedures

  1. Inspect bins on arrival to ensure they are free of dirt in the lift channels and any grape residues. Check that the appropriate legal requirements have been followed. Reject loads that have not followed the legal requirements.
  2. If obtaining bins from a hire company, insist that they cleaned and disinfested before dispatch to your vineyard.
  3. It is preferable to have picking buckets dedicated to your vineyard and they should not be loaned out to other vineyards.
  4. Be extra vigilant when conditions during harvest are cool and muddy.
  5. Unloading of bin trailers with cranes should be on a hard stand area away from the vineyard where no wash-down material can go back on to vines. Grape bins should be cleaned both inside and outside before leaving the winery that is supplying them to your vineyard.
  6. Clean the lift channels on the bins.
  7. Remove grape residue and dirt from inside and outside of bins and from trays, axles, mudguards and tyres of bin trailers, cranes and trucks.
  8. If you use picking buckets from another vineyard, make sure they are cleaned and disinfested before entering your vineyard.
  9. For mechanical harvesters, disinfestation by dry heat is compulsory.

Disinfest machinery and equipment

To disinfest machinery and equipment thoroughly clean with steam or with high pressure hot water to remove all soil and organic matter and disinfested and either apply steam at a temperature above 100°C, as measured at the steam outlet or immerse in hot water (>70°C) for at least 2 minutes at temperature.

Alternatively after cleaning with steam or high pressure hot water place machinery and equipment in a heat room for:

  • at least 90 minutes at a temperature of 45°C, or
  • at least 180 minutes at a temperature of 40°C.

Agricultural equipment and used packages must be accompanied by a Plant Health Certificate (PHC) or a Plant Health Declaration issued by an Agriculture Victoria approved person (for movement within Victoria only).

For further information on movement conditions refer to compliance and movement conditions.

People and their vehicles

People and their vehicles includes:

  • contractors and labour teams
  • casual labourers
  • winery staff, consultants, Grape Liaison Officers (GLO)
  • tourists
  • agents, sales reps, meter readers
  • ancillary service providers (power, telecommunication, gas).

Restrict access and practice good hygiene procedures

  1. Ask labour hire companies to ensure workers arrive with clean boots and tools each day.
  2. Check previous work sites and, if people have come from a vineyard in a PIZ or a region of unknown phylloxera status or recognised biosecurity risk, insist they have changed into clean clothing and footwear, and that vehicles are clean, before entering the vineyard.
  3. Provide resources and instruction on quarantine and vineyard hygiene to all workers before allowing them to start work.
  4. Do not allow visitor vehicles to drive in the vineyard. Use a vineyard vehicle wherever possible.
  5. Visually inspect footwear and vehicles for mud and plant material before allowing them onto the vineyard.
  6. If visitor vehicles are required to drive between vine rows, clean the tyres and underside first.

Require visitors to clean footwear as follows:

  • Prior to entry to your property – footwear must be cleaned of soil and plant material with water.
  • On exit – use water and scrubbing brush (or screwdriver) to remove soil and plant material from tread of footwear.

To clean footwear:

  1. Mix a 2 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution (‘chlorine’) in a tub in sufficient volume to cover top of footwear. If using a 4 per cent sodium hypochlorite product such as White King bleach, mix 1 part water to 1 part product. Check expiry date and follow safety instructions of product.
  2. Use gloves and safety glasses
  3. Place chlorine solution tub on hard stand area well away from vines – preferably under cover in the shade, at shed, office or farm gate.
  4. Ensure footwear is immersed for at least 60 seconds in chlorine solution. Do not rinse after immersion. Caution against splashing to eyes, skin and clothes. Contractors need to dip their boots too.
  5. Place lid over chlorine solution during the day to avoid breakdown by the sun. Replace solution daily or more frequently if it gets dirty.

Small hand tools can be cleaned and disinfested in the same way.

Alternatives to disinfestation

Spraying clothing with fly spray will reduce but not eliminate phylloxera and other pests.

Alternatively, provide boots (or sturdy shoe covers) and disposable overalls for visitors/casual workers to wear while on your property. Require contract labourers to keep a pair of boots just for use in your vineyard, bringing other footwear to change into when they leave. These vineyard boots only need to be cleaned the first time they are brought onto your property.

All clothing used in vineyards in PIZs or regions of unknown phylloxera status or with recognised biosecurity issues should be washed in hot water and detergent after working in vineyards in those areas.

Grapevine planting material

Grapevine planting material includes:

  • cuttings
  • rootlings
  • grafted rootlings
  • potted vines (dormant and green material).

Restrict access and practice good hygiene procedures

  1. It is prohibited to remove cuttings, rootlings and potted vines from a PIZ. Potted vines are prohibited from a PRZ into a PEZ but cuttings and rootlings can be imported under conditions (contact Plant Standards).
  2. Buy only high-quality material of known origin and health status from an accredited nursery or vine improvement organisation, preferably from a PEZ.
  3. Visually inspect dormant vines on arrival and reject any with dirt on stems or roots.
  4. Clearly record the source and other details of the material planted on the vineyard. Planting material should arrive clean.
  5. Rootlings/cuttings can be rinsed clean of soil.
  6. Nursery should provide evidence of the hot water procedure used.
  7. Require that all material be hot water treated before leaving the nursery.

There are two different hot water treatments. One is a longer duration treatment recommended for cuttings prior to propagation that reduces certain internal pathogens such as crown gall and phytoplasmas (50°C for 30 minutes).

The other is a treatment for pests such as nematodes and phylloxera (55°C for 5 minutes) that should be used on field grown rootlings.

Prevention strategies

Viticulturists' approach to biosecurity should be based on two simple strategies:

  1. Restricting vineyard access – keep the pest out.
  2. Cleaning and disinfestation – remove or kill it on or before arrival.

Restricting vineyard access

The more people, machinery and vehicles that enter your property, the greater the risk that one of them will bring an unwanted organism, such as phylloxera with them, and accidentally contaminate or infest your vineyard.

Your aim should be to limit access to your vineyard as much as possible – particularly to people, vehicles and equipment that have recently been in other vineyards.

General guidelines for restricting vineyard access

  1. Controlled entry point. Have one entry point to your vineyard and forbid unauthorised entry or entry when the property is not supervised. If you have gates, keep them closed and locked (if an absentee owner).
  2. Signs. Use signs to advise the conditions and restrictions of entry to the property (include a contact phone number for people to ring if access is required).
  3. Restrict entry. Don't encourage unnecessary visits to the grapevines themselves. Prohibit entry to vine rows as much as possible. Sales people can talk to you in your shed or office.
  4. Reported arrival. Require all visitors to report to an office or person on arrival and before moving close to vines.
  5. Check recent vineyard visits. Ask all potential visitors about recent visits to vineyards – particularly in other regions, states or countries. Consider denying access to anyone who has been in or near a vineyard overseas or in a known PIZ or in a vineyard in a region with a known presence of unwanted biosecurity issues. Deny access if they are wearing the same clothes, footwear or using the same vehicle, without thorough cleaning and disinfestation.
  6. Visitor log. Consider keeping a record of all visitors to the vineyard, including date and purpose of visit. This would be very helpful if you ever had to trace the origin of an infestation on your property.
  7. Control vehicle access. Provide parking for visitor vehicles away from vines – preferably on a hard surface. Prevent or discourage anyone taking shortcuts through vineyards; they should stick to roads, designated tracks or headlands.
  8. Fences and gates. Physically restrict access to your vineyard as much as possible with fences and (closed) gates – especially along main roads or where people tend to enter the vineyard without authorisation (to take short-cuts).
  9. Provide information. Anyone unfamiliar with phylloxera or other biosecurity issues and its impact should be provided with information (brochures, pamphlets, maps, website addresses).

Cleaning and disinfestation

Hygiene includes cleaning and disinfestation.

  • Cleaning removes the biosecurity risk itself, or the soil, water or grapevine material that is carrying it.
  • Disinfestation does not necessarily remove the organism but kills it. This process is particularly important when the risk vector is difficult to clean (a grape harvester or in the crevices on the soles of boots).

General guidelines for vineyard hygiene

  1. Use a designated cleaning area. Cleaning should be carried out in a designated area wherever possible – preferably on a hard surface (gravel, concrete or bitumen) and well away from grapevines.
  2. No run-off onto vines. Water run-off from cleaning must not be able to flow onto or next to any vines.
  3. Make cleaning more effective. The use of pressure cleaners and scrubbing brushes makes cleaning more effective. Detergents are also good for breaking down dirt and using hot water rather than cold may assist in removing sticky substances in particular (such as on grape bins).

General guidelines for winery hygiene

Grape products. The following guidelines apply to the transport and processing of must, unfiltered juice and marc between vineyards within a PIZ, from vineyards in a PRZ, or from a region with a recognised biosecurity issue.

  1. On arrival. Ensure trucks and tankers arriving at the winery are clean and have adhered to any legal or specified requirements. Check copies of any documentation.
  2. Designated area. Use a designated area at the winery for receival from outside vineyards on a hard surface area that can be cleaned, and waste runs to a containment area away from vines. Clean all equipment used in the process.
  3. Staff movements. Restrict movements of winery staff onto vineyards until they have been through a cleaning and disinfestation process.
  4. Fermentation. Keep must and unfiltered juice securely contained in fermenters until fermentation is complete.
  5. Grape bins. Clean all grape bins and trucks prior to departing your winery.
  6. Disposal. Do not dispose of unfermented MOG (material other than grapes), stalks, marc or solids near vines. Ensure it undergoes a thorough composting process before using it on vines.

Pocket guide, factsheets and videos

The following information offers all growers free information on how to implement best practice farm biosecurity measures to reduce the risk associated with the spread of phylloxera.

Introduction to best practice on-farm phylloxera management.

[Ray Guerin, Guerin Viticulture Consulting, speaking]

Phylloxera is a major issue for the wine grape industry.

It is an insect which lives on the roots of grapevines and it will kill a grape vine. That is a major problem for viticulturists in Australia.

If a grower is to get phylloxera in his vineyard it means a replanting program. And it can be very quick in its movement across the vineyard but generally it is slow but it means that you have to replant the vineyard.

You have to replant it on root stocks, phylloxera-resistant roof stocks, and the costs are quite dramatic compared to on own roots.

So if it's an own rooted vine you could arguably say that it will cost you around $1 per vine as a rooted cutting that you can buy, but if it is on a root stock it's going to be $5 per vine so the impact is immense.

So if you're looking at just an area say like the Yarra Valley where planting densities are a bit higher than others it can be say 2,660 odd vines per hectare and it can be in excess of 13,000 dollars per hectare of vines that you require.

[voiceover]

By employing best practice on-farm biosecurity measures you can stop the spread of the phylloxera onto your property.

These same measures can also minimise the impacts of phylloxera on properties already affected by the pest.

The biggest risks for transferring phylloxera between vineyards involve the use of vineyard equipment and machinery, grape harvesting items and grape vine planting material.

Visitors to the property and contractors can also be a leading cause of the spread of phylloxera.

The more that people machinery and vehicles enter your property, the greater the risk one of them will bring phylloxera with them and accidentally contaminate or infest your vineyard.

Your aim should be to limit access to your vineyard as much as possible, particularly to people, vehicles and equipment that have recently been at other vineyards.

Have one entry point to your vineyard and forbid unauthorised entry or entry where your property is not supervised.

If you have gates keep them closed and locked.

Ensure all visiting vehicles including trucks, cars, tractors, and contract machinery and equipment arriving at your winery are clean and have adhered to all legal or specified requirements.

Use a vineyard vehicle wherever possible and check documentation.

Use signs to advise of any conditions and restrictions of entry to your property and include a contact phone number for people to ring if access is required.

Require all your visitors to report to an office or designated person on arrival.

Keep a record of all visitors to the vineyard including the date and purpose of their visit. This could be very helpful if you ever had to trace the origin of an infestation on your property.

Importantly, ask visitors about their recent visits to other vineyards. Consider denying access to anyone who has been in or near a vineyard in a known phylloxera infested zone. Deny them access to your property if they are wearing the same clothes footwear or using the same vehicle which haven't been cleaned and disinfested.

[Ray Guerin, Guerin Viticulture Consulting, speaking]

You need to know where they came from, in other words, have they been near, in a region where there is phylloxera, have they been near other vineyards and if that is the case you need to be very wary.

And you also, it's more so contractors because they're moving around they're working in a number of different vineyards they could even be working within a phylloxera area and then come out that into your area.

So there are systems there where there are heat rooms, where machinery can be cleaned thoroughly put into these heat rooms and disinfested of the potential of phylloxera, so and you need to see the certificates that this work's been done before you allow anybody onto your property.

[Voiceover]

Provide parking for tourists and visitors to the winery away from your vines, preferably on a hard surface.

Prevent anyone taking shortcuts through your vineyards. They must stick to roads, designated tracks or hard surfaces. And do not allow visitor vehicles to drive in the vineyard.

Don't allow tourists or unauthorised visitors entry to your vine rows and restrict access to your vineyard as much as possible with fences and gates especially along main roads or where people or wild animals are able to enter the vineyard without authorisation to take shortcuts.

[Ray Guerin, Guerin Viticulture Consulting, speaking]

Well, visitors or tourists are an issue for us, they really are. In other words, they are very mobile, they could move from what is a phylloxera region into our region, into your region, as a grower, within a very short space of time.

So movement is you know can be very quick to your property.

So you need to be very cautious and if it's a cellar door in particular and most companies love to have vineyards leading to the cellar door, so access to that vineyard is quite easy. And people love to pull out their phone and take a photograph and they physically get out of their vehicle and will walk into the vineyards, so, you know, we have to limit that.

We really need to fence them or have signage saying, you know, this is a restricted area, not to move within that vineyard or you're putting yourself at risk.

[voiceover]

Cleaning should be carried out in a designated area if possible on a hard surface, gravel, concrete or bitumen, and well away from the vineyard.

Consider installing a dedicated washdown bay if you have contractor equipment or machinery from other regions or states on your property. Water runoff from cleaning must not be able to flow onto, or next, to any vines.

Remove any parts of machinery that may hold dirt or plant material debris, and thoroughly hot wash or pressure wash the machine or equipment concentrating on the underside and other areas most likely to collect soil or plant material.

Wash any associated equipment or vehicles, particularly wheels and mud guards.

Ask contractors to clean and disinfest machinery before arrival and check certification on machinery or equipment coming into your vineyard to ensure it complies with the regulations.

Harvesting equipment should be cleaned both inside and outside by legally regulated methods such as heat rooms or hot-water washing before leaving the winery.

Importantly all machinery originating in a phylloxera infested zone must be treated in a heat shed before it leaves the zone.

Inspect bins on arrival to ensure they are free of dirt and any grape residues in the lift channels. If you're obtaining bins from a hire company, insist that they are cleaned and disinfested before they're dispatched to your vineyard.  Check that the appropriate legal requirements have been followed. Reject any loads that have not followed the legal requirements.

If you use picking buckets from another vineyard make sure they are cleaned and disinfested before entering your vineyard and have the appropriate certification. It is strongly advised that you have picking buckets dedicated to your vineyard which should not be loaned out to other vineyards.

The risk of picking up phylloxera crawlers on clothing or footwear is particularly high between November and April when phylloxera crawlers are likely to be present on the soil surface and in the canopy.

Provide boots and disposable overalls for casual workers to wear while they're on your property.

If not take the following steps when workers and staff are entering your vineyard.

Use bleach for washing and disinfesting. Common household bleaches need to be diluted to 50 percent bleach, 50 percent water.

Scrub boots with a scrubbing brush in water to remove any mud. Dip and scrub boots in freshly prepared bleach solution for 60 seconds but do not rinse in water immediately after the immersion period.

Clothing and hats are high risk carriers of phylloxera because they can come into contact with vines, so minimise the risk by providing disposable clothes where feasible. All clothing used in vineyards in phylloxera infested zones or regions of unknown phylloxera status should be washed in hot water and detergent after working in vineyards in those areas.

Clean any small hand tools such as picking and pruning equipment in the same way.

Check that your casual workers always arrive in clean clothing and boots and with clean tools.

It is prohibited to remove cuttings, rootlings and potted vines from a phylloxera infested zone.

Potted vines are prohibited from moving from a phylloxera restricted zone into a phylloxera exclusion zone but cuttings and rootling's can be imported under strict conditions.

Visually inspect dormant vines on arrival and reject any with dirt on its stems or roots.

Buy only high-quality material of known origin and health status from an accredited nursery or vine improvement organisation. The nursery should always provide evidence of the hot water procedure used.

Require that all material be hot water treated before leaving the nursery and clearly record the source and other details of the material planted on the vineyard.

Phylloxera can go undetected for years. Do not assume grape phylloxera is absent on your property. Apply best practice biosecurity measures even though detection has not been confirmed.

Remember, your neighbour may be infested even though your property is free of the pest.

Phylloxera management begins at the farmgate. Plan long-term for replanting with resistant rootstock which prevents the pest multiplying. But always remember phylloxera can still exist on properties with resistant rootstock.

[Ray Guerin, Guerin Viticulture Consulting, speaking]

Just the material that you bring onto your property, make sure that rootlings and grapevines, that you want to plant as new plantings, make sure they come from reputable nurseries or vine improvement associations.

So, caution, you need to have caution. Phylloxera in your vineyard it is really going to hurt financially. It's going to be a major impact on your income. Your vineyard, a percentage of it is going to be out of production for a good many years before you're able to actually rid your vineyard of it.

So financially it could be as serious as halving your yield, on a given basis, and we know that in regions, this does make it uneconomic. You cannot survive on half an income.

So you have to be prepared to spend immense amount of money to replant and get back into production again. And this is sustainable, you know, it's going to be very difficult for some, there's no doubt about that.

Phylloxera is moving, it is moving through regions and unexpectedly it is moving far quicker than people have expected it to move.
And I think it is a very much a kindly reminder to everybody that we need to be aware, we need to do everything possible to slow this down. Yes, it's, it is going to happen at some time but while we can grow our vines on own roots and get the quality of fruit we want, we want to work hard to maintain that.

[voiceover]

For more information regarding phylloxera, what to look out for and on-farm hygiene practices visit agriculture dot vic dot gov dot au forward slash phylloxera.

Remember be aware.

Keep up to date on information workshops, new findings and best practice biosecurity protocols.

Be active.

Monitor weak or suspect spots in your vineyard.

Be vigilant.

Have a strong farm gate policy and on-farm biosecurity

Page last updated: 09 Feb 2021