Australia's winemakers are on alert this week after a wind borne disease with the ability to wreak havoc on the country's A$3.6bn wine industry was discovered in a Darwin backyard.

According to local reports, a quarantine officer discovered the small yellow pustules of grapevine leaf rust on vines in a friend's garden in Darwin. The discovery prompted a nationwide telephone conference between 30 leading government and industry figures on Monday.

Grapevine leaf rust is a fungal endemic from northern Asia that kills and retards vine growth. It has the potential to be extremely damaging because it can be spread hundreds of miles in a day by the wind. Already six more cases of the fungus have been discovered in Darwin.

While the Australian industry is taking the threat very seriously, industry leaders are unsure how the tropical diseases will thrive in the cooler climates of Australia's primary wine growing regions.

Furthermore, Darwin's backyard vines are a considerable distance from Australia's primary wine regions of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

However Winemakers Federation of Australia policy director Stephen Strachan in today's The Australian said the disease was of serious concern.

"We are not ruling anything in or out. We don't have a lot of knowledge about the disease and it is a matter of looking at the worst-case scenarios. The wholesale wine industry is worth A$3.6bn. That is why we are taking it seriously," he said.