With the risk of Phylloxera an on-going debate in the UK’s viticulture sector, this month’s feature “Grafting away”, pages 30-35, on Simon Day at Haygrove Evolution is undoubtedly going to put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Following years of research and vine propagation trials, Haygrove Evolution has launched a commercial supply of own rooted vines into the UK market. Confident that the vines, which have been propagated in a sterile, soil free, coir substrate, are of low-risk to growers, Mr Day also advocates the use of propagated vines as a viable, alternative solution to grafted vines in the fight against grapevine trunk diseases (GTD).

While Phylloxera is not native to the UK, its presence has been reported a handful of times over the years on vineyards this side of the Chanel. As Great Britain’s acreage of vines increases, so will the proximity of neighbouring vineyards. As the tourism offering develops, for instance with the introduction of regional wine trials, there is no doubt going to be higher movement of people between sites. Concerns have thus been raised as to the speed at which Phylloxera could potentially spread.

In cases of infection, which by law must be reported, the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) can order the removal of infected vines as well as placing restrictive movement orders on the vineyard in questions. In such circumstances, good hygiene and precautionary measures will need to be put in place to ensure visitors, labourers and machinery operators are not transferring soil or plant material from vineyard to vineyard.

In Australia, where the majority of commercial vine plantings are predominately own-rooted, Phylloxera is currently confined to parts of Victoria and New South Wales with movement conditions underpinned by the national Phylloxera management protocol.

Phylloxera cannot be treated through spraying and vines grafted onto resistant rootstocks is the only means of control. While early signs of infestation can include stunted shoot growth and yellowing of leaves, vineyard owners should be well educated in what to look out for in the vineyard.

Those opting to plant own root vines should do so armed with the facts and those looking for more information of the many benefits of propagated vines should turn to page 30.

– Victoria Rose