Virus-free clones critical for local wine industry

Propagated vines

I have been spending valuable time with Jerry Judkins-Smith, co-owner of Inland Desert Nursery located in the Columbia Valley area of Washington State. Inland Desert is the largest virus-free vine and rootstock nursery in the state, supplying 85% of plant material to Washington producers.

On Monday I introduced Jerry to Lelienfontein nursery in Wellington, where we spent the day examining rootstocks, soils, callous rooms and the like. What was particularly interesting was the continual flow and exchange of information between Jerry and the Bosman family members.

With the popular adage of “wine is made in the vineyard”, it stands to reason that improved quality of berries and bunches, stems from plant material that is virus-free and of good quality. This is an area of concern particularly where Leafroll Virus is concerned, however, this is not the only virus South Africa has to contend with.

Foundation and mother blocks are naturally the starting point of propagation with the storage conditions of  Callous rooms contributing to virus-free status. In-field planting and subsequent growing conditions further complete the cycle, resulting in certified clonal and rootstock material ready for market.

New World partners such as the USA are closer to South Africa in terms of desired wine styles than say Old World France, and thus we should continue dialogue and shared information to advance our industry.

In combatting virus, pre-cautions in respect of handling plant material and testing (such as ELISA) are critical to knowing the status of your vines.

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