Managing abandoned vineyards and orchards
Abandoned or neglected vineyards or orchards are a potential host of pests and diseases that can pose a significant concern for neighbouring properties. This is particularly the case in the early stages of neglect, while the vines or trees are still alive.
Farm owners and new owners of a neglected site are responsible for the management of pests, diseases and weeds in their vineyards or orchard. This responsibility also applies to a landholder who has taken over or purchased a site but doesn’t want to manage the plantings for horticultural purposes due to an intention to redevelop the site.
If landowners/growers wish to abandon a vineyard or orchard partially or entirely, they need to consider the risks that pests and diseases from their property may present to surrounding producers.
If vines or trees are to be kept, they still need to be managed to minimise biosecurity risks. Control programs for pests and diseases must be maintained appropriately to seasonal conditions. Any unpicked fruit should be knocked to the ground and mulched to minimise the risk of propagating pests such as fruit flies.
The best option is for the property owner who plans to cease production or abandon the vineyard or orchard is to kill or remove all vines and trees to minimise biosecurity risks.
To minimise the spread of pests and diseases, vines should be cut off around 30cm above ground level, ideally in late spring.
Remove and burn the upper part of the vine so it doesn’t provide a source of infection for trunk diseases or leave the dead vine in the original place on the trellis. Leaving some of the lower stump provides a leverage point that may be useful when removing the vine.
If the stumps are left in the ground, paste the trunk stump with a systemic herbicide emulsion immediately after cutting to control the growth of suckers. This practice is known as ‘cut and pasting’. When using agricultural and veterinary chemicals it is essential that they are used in a responsible manner. For further information on chemical use, refer to Spraying agricultural chemicals.
Trellis posts treated with copper chrome arsenate (CCA) or creosote (treatments for some types of pine) mustn’t be burned or buried because they can release toxic chemicals. This material must be disposed of at a licensed landfill site.
The first priority for orchards is 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 by either spraying the tree or cut and pasting the freshly cut stumps. The most efficient way to remove orchard trees is to use an excavator to dig them out.
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 a producer is being affected by pests or diseases from a neighbouring neglected orchard or vineyard, the matter can be pursued by contacting the Agriculture Victoria Customer Contact Centre on 136 186. The caller will be provided with a complaint form. The information provided will determine whether the case warrants further investigation.
An inspection may be undertaken that may result in the issuing of an ‘Infested Land Notice’ using powers under the Plant Biosecurity Act 2010. The Notice can require the property owner to instigate take action to control pests or diseases.
Relevant links relating to managing abandoned vineyards and orchards: