Program Seeks New Winegrape Foes

Pierce's disease assessment funds grapevine moth research; weighs other invasive pests

by Jane Firstenfeld
grapevine moth
The Pierce's Disease/Glassy-winged Sharp Shooter Board allotted assessment funds to combat the European Grapevine Moth (above).
Sacramento, Calif.—Since 1999, the California Department of Food & Agriculture’s Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter Control Program has pumped some $440 million from federal, state, local and industry contributions into research and outreach to eliminate the destructive disease and its insect vectors. Administered by the PD/GWSS Board, the continuing campaign—including about $39 million in winegrape growers’ self-assessments since 2002—has succeeded in dramatically reducing PD’s spread, although eradication is far from complete.

Last year, growers voted both to renew the assessment for another five years and expand its uses to include research and outreach addressing other pests and diseases that threaten winegrapes. In short order, the board allotted assessment funds to combat the European Grapevine Moth (EGVM), which first appeared in a Napa vineyard around harvest in 2009 and rampaged through California’s prime grapegrowing regions during the next year, forcing quarantines and other costly precautions.

Quarantines spread through the 2011 season, and remain in place for approximately 240,000 vineyard acres in 10 counties. Last season, traps caught some 100,000 EGVM; this year, thanks to strict prevention protocols, the statewide count is only 144. For an infestation to be declared eradicated, no live insects or eggs can be found within a quarantined area for two seasons, according to Ken Freeze, Brown-Miller Communications, who handles publicity for the CDFA PD/GWSS program.

Catch pests before they take hold

“That’s why this is so meaningful,” he told Wines & Vines. “It gives us the opportunity to act on new pests” before they become established. Fortunately, no new invasive pests have come to light this year, but vigilance remains key.

“The biggest challenge is deciding when something is an industry-wide threat. Something new can pop up. No one wants to find out three years later” that a newly arrived pest imperils the state. Freeze pointed out that some 100 new invasive insect species have been identified in California agriculture during the last decade compared to 50 during the 1970s.

Swifter transportation of agricultural and other products has contributed to the upswing. Customs priorities altered by the 9/11 crisis have also swung the enforcement balance. But an infected imported mango could ultimately cause far more monetary damage than a grenade. “If the wrong bug gets loose and established, it can cost hundreds of millions,” Freeze commented.

The PD/GWSS program’s new provisions aim to avert these dire consequences. The board has established a process enabling grapegrowers, winemakers and pest control professionals to nominate pests for research funding, including a flowchart of the process and an evaluation worksheet. Learn more at http://pdgwss.net/Lib/New-pests.htm. Please note that the phone number for the CDFA PD control has been changed: It’s now (916) 900 5326.

Currently no comments posted for this article.