Tourists and cellar door employees are set to join the frontline fight to keep South Australia’s valuable wine industry disease-free.
The new Wine Tourism Biosecurity Program, part of the Responsible Visitation campaign, is an initiative that’s being rolled out across the state’s wine regions by Vinehealth Australia.
Its goal is to arm cellar door and tourism staff with tools to educate visitors on how they can reduce the risk of spreading pests, diseases and weeds on shoes, clothing and vehicle tyres.
This includes keeping tourists away from vine rows to mitigate the risk of introducing potentially devastating pests such as phylloxera – a very small, yellow insect that feeds on the roots, and sometimes the leaves, of grapevines.
Vinehealth Australia CEO Inca Pearce said South Australia was fortunate enough to have some of the oldest grapevines in the world thanks to our phylloxera-free status.
“Our state is free of phylloxera and many of the other pests and diseases that have decimated wine regions around the world,” she said.
“But increased trade and tourism means increased pest and disease risks.
“Tourists could walk through a phylloxera-infested vineyard and, unknowingly, pick up the tiny insect on their shoes or clothing, then be in a phylloxera-free vineyard in another region or state the same day.
“The best way to avoid the spread of pests, diseases and weeds is to keep tourists away from vines, or to ensure their footwear and clothing is safe before entering vine rows.
“There is a huge opportunity to educate the community about the precious vines that create the wines they enjoy, and how visitors can help keep those vines healthy.”
Part of the broader campaign is ‘Who’s hitchhiking with you?’, which sees Phil, a human-sized phylloxera bug hitching a ride from vineyard to vineyard with tourists. It was launched on 2 February by Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Leon Bignell.
The campaign asked tourists not to let Phil the Phylloxera Bug and his nasty pest friends hitchhike with them, by staying on roads and paths and not walking amongst vines.
The foundation of the Wine Tourism Biosecurity Program is a state-wide training program for every cellar door in South Australia. There will be individual site training at cellar doors with high tourist visitation numbers and group training at regional Visitor Information Centres for smaller cellar doors.
The program is funded by Vinehealth Australia and PIRSA, with additional support from the South Australian Wine Industry Association.