The hemipteran Phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide, originally native to eastern North America. These tiny insects, related to aphids, feed on the roots and leaves of grapevines which results in root deformations and secondary fungal infections. Juveniles also form protective galls on the undersides of grapevine leaves of some vine species.
The species has already spread and is found around most of the world's vineyards. One of Australia's primer vine regions - South Australia is home to the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of South Australia which is committed to minimising the risk of pests and diseases in particular Phylloxera in South Australian vineyards. The organisation has been spearheading research that resulted in the development of DNA tests (DNA Barcoding, eDNA analysis with taqMan probes). In order to support these efforts the South Australian Government has decided to spend $500,000 to speed up commercialisation of this new method of testing for phylloxera.
Traditional testing methods rely on digging around grapevines followed by visual inspection to see if the insect is living on the roots. If done comprehensively this method is extremely costly and the new DNA-based analysis could save the industry millions of dollars. Trials were already conducted in New South Wales and France and researchers are now looking into refinement of sampling protocol the need to establish the best location and depth to take a sample from, and how long it will take and at what temperatures before the DNA degrades’.
Save the vine!