With Pest Gone, Grape Growers Rejoice
County Eradicates Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter | By Barry Eberling
FAIRFIELD - Solano County is now officially free of an invasive insect that had the potential to devastate the region's wine industry.
The glassy-winged sharpshooter hasn't been trapped in the county since May 2005, the tail end of an infestation in a Vacaville neighborhood. On Monday, county Agriculture Commissioner Jerry Howard announced the pest is considered eradicated. No insect has been found for the required time period.
'Our efforts protected the county's burgeoning wine grape industry and kept the insect from entering the grape-growing valleys in Napa and Sonoma,' Howard said in a press release.
Roger King of the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association welcomed the eradication news Monday. Suisun Valley has some 2,000 acres of grapes and several wineries. Efforts are underway to promote the valley as a tourist destination, with wine a key attraction.
'People were very concerned in this valley because Vacaville is very close,' King said Monday.
Glassy-winged sharpshooters are 1/2-inch-long, leaf-hopping insects that suck fluids out of certain plants. They can spread a bacterium called Pierce's disease that kills grape vines. They also can spread diseases that hurt almonds, alfalfa and various ornamental plants.
The insects are native to northeastern Mexico. They somehow reached Temecula in Riverside County in 1999, rocking the wine industry there by destroying about 300 acres of grapes.
Sharpshooters can move to other parts of the state through nursery shipments of infected plants.
On June 7, 2004, Solano County workers found the sharpshooter near Nut Tree Parkway in Vacaville during routine trapping. In subsequent weeks, the state and county sprayed pesticides on trees and shrubs in infested commercial and residential areas. They released hundreds of stingerless, parasitic wasps to destroy sharpshooter eggs.
Although King is happy that the sharpshooter is considered eradicated, he's not ready to forget about the insect. All it takes is one nursery shipment that hasn't been totally inspected to bring the sharpshooter back, he said.
'Vigilance is big,' King said. 'It's gone from Vacaville, but it can pop back way too soon.'
County officials said they will continue their inspection and trapping programs.
'We inspect all incoming plant shipments from glassy-winged sharpshooter-infested areas,' Howard said. 'We'll continue to do that.'
Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, Ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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