Hill Laboratories have expanded their viticulture testing capability with the acquisition of the assets of Vine Testing Laboratory (VTL), a specialised ELISA laboratory able to diagnose Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3).

"We're excited to expand our services available to the wine industry, adding virus testing to our existing Vine to Vintage testing service through this purchase," says Hill Laboratories CEO, Dr Jonno Hill.

An agreement to buy the assets of VTL was reached this year between Ormond Nurseries and Villa Maria Estate, as part of Ormond Nurseries' purchase of Villa Maria's nursery.

As part of this process, Ormond Nurseries general manager Marcus Wickham, recognised that virus testing of grapevines is a specialised service.

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"Due to this specialisation, we're pleased that we have been able to pass this onto Hill Laboratories, who already have specialised laboratory sites and personnel, and are truly independent."

The new service will be provided from Hill's Blenheim laboratory, which is already focused on providing testing services for the wine and viticulture industries.

The grapevine leafroll virus (GLRaV-3) is one of the biggest threats to the wine industry globally, as vines infected with the virus show decreased ripening potential and yield.

New Zealand grapevine nurseries all routinely test for this virus as part of the certification process for the New Zealand Winegrowers Grafted Grapevine Standard.

Hill Laboratories market sector manager (food and bioanalytical), Riaan Botha, says they are looking forward to continuing this service for New Zealand grapevine nurseries, and for any grape growers that are wanting to understand GLRaV-3 levels in their vineyards.

"We already offer a number of testing opportunities for wineries and vineyards, such as soil and petiole testing and residue testing in finished wines.

"By expanding our offering to include virus testing, our existing clients can take advantage of further opportunities to understand their overall vine health."

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Dr Hill says that Hill Laboratories pride themselves on their fast, accurate reporting and industry-leading turnaround times.

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"These are due in part to the state-of-the-art instruments we have in our labs, and the expertise we have in running them. We intend to offer virus testing results in just five working days."

As part of the VTL acquisition, Hill Laboratories also intend to invest in research and development of wine sector testing methodologies.

They are also looking at expanding to include testing for Grapevine leafroll-associated virus type 2 and 1, in addition to type 3.

Hill Laboratories' acquisition of VTL will be completed on September 1, and the laboratory will be up and running in time for the 2021 testing season.