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Pierce’s disease program enjoys widespread grower support

Sonoma County Winegrowers GL0723-SCW-PDGWSS_BT_Edits.jpg
Winegrapes are harvested in Sonoma County, Calif.
To date, in excess of $45 million has been spent on research helping control PD/GWSS and other winegrape pests and diseases.

It’s been two decades since the establishment of a Pierce’s Disease Control Program designed to slow the spread of the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter and minimize the statewide impact of the disease. 

Part of that initial effort involved researching long-term solutions to Pierce’s via an annual value-based assessment on winegrapes.

“When growers decided 20 years ago to fund research to protect their industry, it opened the door to a grower-government partnership that is paying dividends today,” according to California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross.

“By sharing responsibility and resources, this partnership effectively addresses both the pest and the disease challenges facing California’s winegrape growers.”

In the last decade alone, six major pests and diseases have been authorized for research-funding eligibility — Red Blotch Disease; Leafroll Disease; Fanleaf Disease; Mealybug Pests; Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, and the European Grapevine Moth (declared eradicated in 2016).

To date, in excess of $45 million has been utilized on research helping control PD/GWSS and other winegrape pests and diseases. Last fall, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill to extend the effort for another five years, until March 2026. There is an average rate of $1.39 per thousand dollars of crop value over the life of the assessment established. On July 7, the PD/GWSS Board set winegrape assessment at $1 per $1,000 for the 2020 harvest.

Producers who paid the PD/GWSS assessment on crushed grapes during the 2019 harvest got to decide whether or not the assessment would be extended until early 2026. The last time growers voted, over 80% cast a ballot in favor of extending the assessment.

This time, consensus ruled again and research will continue as 78% of winegrape growers approved the latest measure.

“It’s heartening to know that California’s winegrape growers continue to see value in the joint effort we’ve built together with the assessment,” said CDFA’s Ross.

“In these trying times, we appreciate the industry support. The PD/GWSS Board has always focused on grower’s best interests to ensure our industry has the best research to protect vineyards from pests and diseases,” said Board Chair Domonic Rossini of Fratello Farming in Denair.

Program important to industry

Will Drayton, Treasury Wine Estates in St. Helena, is Vice Chair of the PD/GWSS Advisory Board of winegrape growers and processors. He notes, “The positive vote shows the importance of this program to the industry because long term thinking, planning, and investment are needed to be competitive into the future.”

Drayton called it leveraging forward funding and added, “It’s incredibly important we spend this money wisely to procure tools for the future with these diseases and other threats we have coming, like the spotted lanternfly and viral diseases. It’s great we can work collaboratively and get a vote like this passed to set us up for the future.”

Jeff Bitter presides over Allied Grape Growers in Fresno, some 500 independent grape growers who sell product to wine grape buyers throughout the state. Bitter is also on the 14 member PD/GWSS board and he is a grower himself.

“The AGG supported continuation of the program providing ongoing resources for pest and disease research and control measures for the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter, so we are pleased that wine grape growers statewide have confirmed their desire to continue helping themselves through assessments which generate much-needed resources,” he says. “California growers have done the right thing by taking control of their own destiny by continuing the program for another five years.

“As a grower, I’m also pleased because we are constantly challenged by risk from pests, diseases, regulations, weather, and markets, and to be able to help control the risks associated with pest and disease variables through self-assessment and government partnerships is critical. I’m not sure we can ever do enough as an industry regarding research, but keeping the PD/GWSS program in place is paramount to that effort.”

For more news on pests, disease management and other issues affecting vineyards, subscribe to the bi-monthly newsletter The Grape Line.

TAGS: winegrapes
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