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Industry NZ helps wine-makers fight grape disease

8 December 2002 Media Statement

Industry NZ helps wine-makers fight grape disease

Industry and Regional Development Minister Jim Anderton is welcoming the news that wine-makers have a new weapon against the devastating “dead arm” fungal disease, thanks to North Shore company Chemcolour Industries and the assistance of Industry New Zealand.

Chemcolour has devised a two-pronged attack on the disease, officially named Eutypa lata, and Industry New Zealand has supported the work with a Business Growth grant of $100,000.

“Innovative ideas from New Zealanders have solved another industry problem and this may result in increased income and further jobs in an industry which continues to grow in importance for New Zealand,” said Jim Anderton.

Chemcolour has developed a bioactive herbicide, Vitae, to help infected plants fight off the disease and stop it taking hold. The herbicide matches a fungus-fighting substance produced naturally by the vines themselves, but in insufficient quantities, says Chemcolour marketing manager Bruce Moore.

Chemcolour has worked with Crown Research Institute Hort Research to devise a unique stem injection system capable of pumping the herbicide directly into the plant’s “veins”. This injection system enables the herbicide to spread rapidly from the roots to the leaf-tips, Moore says. The system is halfway through two-year long field trials in France, Italy, California and Australia.

The $100,000 grant from Industry New Zealand’s Business Growth Fund went towards the trials as well as allowing the company to gain certification and approval from the standards authorities in each of the trial countries, and protect its intellectual property.

Industry New Zealand General Manager Northern Region Lance Wickman, says “Historically Chemcolour’s main focus has been importing specialty chemicals. This technology, however, will help move its focus towards developing and manufacturing home-grown innovations.”

For more information contact:
Bruce Moore, Chemcolour Industries NZ, Phone: (09) 444 4650,
Lance Wickman, Industry New Zealand, (09) 919 9010
Sam Fisher [press secretary] 021 714209 or 04 4719289

Editor’s Note

Stem injection is a far more effective way to treat Eutypa than spraying as the herbicide is placed where the fungus is, in the woody part of the vine.”
Trials to date in New Zealand show vines have an 85% chance of recovery if treated with Vitae and the stem injection system before becoming badly infected, he says. Previously, the only options available to growers were to cut back affected plants, with no guarantees the disease wouldn’t resurface, or to rip vines out and replant.

The stem injection system, developed in conjunction with scientists at HortResearch, is already being used to treat silverleaf disease in pip and stone fruit. Later this year it will be offered to grape growers, along with the Vitae herbicide.

Chemcolour is also halfway through two-year long field trials of the treatment in France, Italy and California. A four year programme in Australia is also half completed. Bruce Moore says overseas growers have been enthusiastic about the trials, as they’re keen to confirm that the technology will control Eutypa and other fungal diseases in their regions. French and Italian vineyards are particularly interested in protecting their oldest and best performing stock, he says.

Chemcolour Industries NZ develops and supplies specialty chemical products. Established in 1989, it is one third owned by Swiss chemical company Clariant with the balance held by the company’s senior management. Historically, about 70% of the North Shore-based company’s sales have come from imported chemicals. However, it is now developing technologies originating in New Zealand that have considerable export potential.

Eutypa lata is a wind-blown fungus that causes major losses in the viticulture industry. It infects the woody stems of plants causing dead arm dieback. Overseas studies show it can reduce grape yields by up to 60%. Once Eutypa is established growers must rework plants – with no guarantee the disease won’t resurface - or replant. However, new grapes take a minimum of five years to reach commercial yields, meaning growers face years of lost production.

Industry New Zealand is the national economic development agency responsible for building a portfolio of world class businesses in New Zealand. Its Business Growth Fund and Fund help businesses get access to advice, expertise and information.

ENDS

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