Workshop to launch new evaluation tool for growers and nurseries

A new tool for grapegrowers and nurseries to evaluate and ensure the sale of high quality and healthy nursery stock will be presented at a workshop at the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference this month.

Workshop convenor National Wine and Grape Industry Centre PhD student Helen Waite developed the new grower tool as part of her ongoing research into hot water treatment, grapevine propagation and trunk disease management in vineyard and nurseries.

The workshop, on Thursday, July 18, will discuss a framework of standards for planting material and vine health and productivity, and provide growers with training in ways to identify and manage trunk diseases as well as strategies to prevent disease incursion and spread in the vineyard.

“It is also my first opportunity in Australia to have growers and nursery managers trial the new tool. I plan to use their feedback to help tweak the tool before we officially launch it,” Helen said.

“Eventually, I would like to develop the tool, which currently employs an excel spreadsheet format, as an application for use on smart phones and tablets.”

Helen’s PhD research on the effects of hot water treatment on growth and protein expression in hot water treated cuttings led to the development of the new tool.

“I discussed the new tool and a set of guidelines for industry, which is a set of standard operating procedures for the handling, propagation, storage and transport of rootstock and nursery material, at a workshop in the United Kingdom last year and received some great feedback,” she said.

“There is strong international recognition around the issues of poor operating procedures in nurseries, the use of inferior transport and handling methods and ultimately the new planting of poor quality vines and potential spread of disease.

“In Australia, now is the time for nurseries to be dealing with this issue. New plantings have decreased substantially over the past few years – so they have time to review practices and implement improved operating procedures where needed.”

The new grower tool provides growers with a clearly defined rating system that considers labels, packaging, transport, condition and appearance of rootstock and nursery cuttings.

“Some little things, like sealed packaging or inconsistent appearance, may not seem that important when considered on their own merits, but ranking and scoring characteristics and calculating a whole batch score demonstrates problems can quickly compound to mean inferior quality stock,” Helen said.

“We also hope that nurseries will be able to use this tool as a sort of checklist to make sure current practices are consistent and their product meets appropriate standards.

“A lot of the current inconsistencies in nursery operating procedures can seem trivial or just in one small area of operation – such as preparation or transport – but ultimately when added up they can have a significant effect on quality.”

For example, Helen said there was substantial evidence that shows some nursery practices, particularly the manner of producing rootstock cuttings and the practice of hydrating cuttings, can contribute significantly to inoculum load in nursery vines and the transmission of trunk diseases.

“There is no doubt that the first step to ensuring a successful, sustainable and long-lasting vineyard is ensuring high quality vines are planted in the first place.

“It’s the very foundation of the vineyard – and no matter how much we learn about matching and adapting vineyard practices to soil types and physical environments it will always come back to making sure you have the right vines to begin with.”

The AWITC workshop is on Thursday, July 18 and will include a range of presenters from Australia and New Zealand, drawn from industry, the research and extension community and the nursery industry. More information about the conference at: www.awitc.com.au

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA