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FUNGAL trunk diseases can reduce yields and grape quality, threatening the viability of many vineyards but scientists from the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga are helping growers plant healthier vines.

When it comes to health in the vineyard the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) vine health and diseases team is tackling the problems of trunk diseases on two fronts.

First; and perhaps most crucially, preventing trunk disease transmission in propagating material, and secondly by reducing the rate and impact of new infections in established vines.

CSU PhD student Helen Waite says obtaining and maintaining healthy vines is important for the financial and environmental sustainability of the wine industry.

Waite says in young vines, the symptoms of trunk diseases and other defects are not always obvious and growers and nurseries are often unaware of problems with planting material until the vines fail to thrive in the vineyard.

By which time, she says, considerable expense has been incurred and vineyard establishment has been delayed by at least a season.

NEW TOOL TO ASSESS THE RISK OF TRUNK DISEASE

As part of her PhD project, Waite has developed a computer based tool called Fit Vine for evaluating the quality, disease status and over all “fitness” of grapevine material prior to planting.

The Fit Vine tool is currently being developed by the NWGIC as an application (app) for mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, Androids etc.) that will enable nurseries to check the quality of vines before despatch and growers to evaluate vines prior to planting.

A free non-commercial prototype of Fit Vine will be released in November for industry testing, calibration and feedback to help improve it.

Waite said although it was developed independently, Fit Vine dovetails with the recently published Australian Standard for Grapevine Material (AS5588-2013).

“Fit Vine is quick and easy to use and requires no special equipment,” Waite said.

“It guides the user through a simple three-stage process and assesses vines against clearly defined standards for documentation and packaging as well as internal and external qualities of randomly sampled vines,” she said.

“Fit Vine also calculates a risk score for each batch of vines that can be used to determine if the vines are likely to underperform in the vineyard and thus provides a first reference point for to determine if further analysis is required.”

Waite said while Fit Vine is a guide to identifying vines that may be compromised, it is not designed to take the place of specialist professional advice.

In case of visual detection of disease symptoms she said professional advice should be sought and samples sent to a laboratory for analysis.

OBJECTIVE STANDARD

Waite said although both Fit Vine and the Standard describe some of the aspects of best practice in propagation, their main purpose is to provide an independent and objective standard that forms the foundation for building best practice protocols.

“Grapevines are relatively easy plants to propagate,” SHE SAID.

“However, the production of large commercial quantities vines is a challenging task that requires skills and an up to date knowledge of disease epidemiology and vine physiology and disorders.”

Full article in the September 2014 issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker.

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