Phylloxera front line

THE state government hopes to beef up the Heathcote wine region's defences against the vine-destroying phylloxera aphid, with the announcement of a $580,000 research project.

The wine region sits near the line between the exclusion and risk zones in Victoria, with phylloxera present in Nagambie, Murchison and Lancefield.

All regions west of Heathcote and Rochester remained phylloxera-free - a situation Heathcote Winegrowers' Association president Phil Meehan hopes would remain.

"Since the outbreaks in Lancefield in 2008 and in Murchison and Nagambie, there is the risk of it being transported into the Heathcote region on farm equipment, car mudflaps and by other means," he said.

"One of the greatest risks comes from wine tourists and people not following the correct protocols.

"Our region's vineyards are always alert and proactive in safeguarding our phylloxera-free status."

The vine-destroying insect has ravaged growing regions across the world in the past, puncturing the root surface and feeding solely on grapevines.

Victoria's wine industry was almost completely wiped out in the late 19th century and did not fully recover until the 1950s.

Winegrowers have since taken every precaution in containing the pest in Victoria.

[We] are always alert and proactive in safeguarding our phylloxera-free status. - Phil Meehan

Before entering a phylloxera exclusion zone, equipment must be driven into a hot box for three hours along with a number of other precautionary techniques.

Mr Meehan said the funding would allow continued research into the most effective biosecurity protocols to ensure Heathcote's phylloxera-free status.

"Wine Victoria has been working on this for some time so it's great to have a successful outcome," he said.

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) at Rutherglen will conduct the research, which includes investigating the best disinfestation techniques and new management options.

Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said the research would help to safeguard the region's phylloxera-free status.

"The Victorian Coalition government is committed to co-investing with industry on targeted research and development that boosts the productivity and profitability of our food and fibre growers," Mr Walsh said.

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