New portable genetic test for phylloxera

Agriculture Victoria scientists have developed a world-leading test for rapid, in-field detection of the number one biosecurity threat to Australia’s grapevines – grape phylloxera.

Grape phylloxera is a tiny aphid-like insect pest that destroys vines by feeding on their roots and can wipe out entire vineyards within six years.

It is considered the most serious insect pest threatening the profitability of Victoria’s $900 million table grape and wine industries.

Managing a grape phylloxera-infected vineyard can increase on-farm costs by up to 20 per cent and outbreaks can reduce vineyard profitability by up to 50 per cent over 20 years.

Rapid and accurate detection is critical to containing the spread of phylloxera and minimising industry impacts.

The new portable genetic test developed by Agriculture Victoria can be used to detect grape phylloxera in the field in less than an hour, compared to several days in a laboratory.

Agriculture Victoria scientist Dr Mark Blacket said the test will enable easier and more effective surveillance of this serious pest.

“This new test will help to stop the spread of grape phylloxera between properties by enabling growers and biosecurity officers to detect it much sooner,” Dr Blacket said.

“The fact that biosecurity officers can now conduct rapid testing in the field means growers can better manage positive cases,” he said.

Grape phylloxera is found in Victoria and New South Wales and there is no way to rid the vines of the pest once they are affected, making early detection and quarantine measures critical to its control.

The new genetic test uses portable LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification)technology to analyse insect DNA.

The test is currently being used by Agriculture Victoria through its Crop Health Services at the AgriBio Centre for AgriBioscience in Victoria and is available for Agriculture Victoria’s biosecurity officers to use in the field.

Together with Agriculture Victoria’s Tackling Phylloxera Program – a state-wide project that aims to address the biosecurity challenges posed by phylloxera – it will improve the productivity of Victoria’s grape industries and allow for more efficient supply chains.

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