Researcher Caroline Roper turned a potted grapevine onto its side and treated the stem with a clear liquid intended to protect it from the ravages of Pierce’s disease.
Her work is part of promising vaccine trials being funded by growers through millions of dollars in self-imposed fees. The work is targeting the disease that nearly wiped out a major California wine region and has stifled wine industries in several other states.
Growers in Florida and Texas are eagerly watching the results of the trials and other experiments with the hope that they might soon be able to grow their own Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and other European varietals, the San Jose Mercury reports.
“We’re finally getting to the point where we’re seeing some results,” said Ben Drake, a grower in the Temecula Valley area of Southern California, where Pierce’s disease destroyed more than 2,000 acres of grapes a decade ago.
The region is making a comeback, but about 1,000 acres have yet to be returned to production.
Since the outbreak, the state and federal governments have been spending a combined $21 million a year to control its spread.
Among other things, the money pays for spraying insecticides in the Central Valley to keep the glassy-winged sharpshooter — the insect that spreads the disease — from moving farther north and wreaking havoc on wine country in Napa and Sonoma counties.