Managing abandoned vineyards or orchards

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 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 on their vineyard or orchard.

Dead trees in orchard

Management options

If vines or trees are to be retained, they still need to be managed to minimise biosecurity risks. Control programs for pests and diseases 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 is for the property owner to kill or remove the vines or trees when they plan to cease production.


Dead vines in vineyard

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's 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.


Row of trees in an orchard

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.

Grower responsibilities

If growers wish to partially or entirely abandon a vineyard or orchard, they need to consider the risks that pests and diseases from their property may present to surrounding producers. 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 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 proforma. The information provided will determine whether the case warrants further investigation by department inspectors.

An inspection may be undertaken 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.

For further information, Customer Contact Centre on 136 186 .

Page last updated: 09 Dec 2021