Another Pest Threatens California Grapevines

    The establishment of a third Sonoma County agriculture quarantine area is prompting farmers to worry that eradication of the light brown apple moth is becoming increasingly difficult, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.

     The latest moth quarantine zone, which reaches from Sebastopol to the outskirts of southwest Santa Rosa, takes in 18 square miles and includes 23 nurseries and landscaping companies, 280 acres of grapes and 70 acres of apples.

     Growers, nurseries and residents inside those areas are prohibited from moving plant material off their properties without having it inspected. However, residents can continue to deposit yard waste in containers for curbside pickup.

     Growers are required to have their fields inspected prior to harvest to confirm their crops are free of the pests.

     The state has found 25 apple moths in the county and has imposed three quarantine areas in the past year, heightening grower concerns.

     “It seems like it’s moving north,” said John Balletto, chairman of the 1,800-member Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission. Balletto, president of Balletto Vineyards, has a vineyard in the new quarantine area.

     Officials have trapped nearly 1,200 apple moths in nearby Marin County and more than 25,000 in San Francisco. In all, nearly 72,000 such insects were collected statewide in the past two years.

     State and federal agriculture officials said there will be no immediate eradication efforts because the county already has too many moths. Eventually, they hope to release millions of sterile moths statewide in an effort to disrupt breeding, but no date has been set for such a release, and no timetable has been set for such a program in Sonoma County.

     The moth, a native to Australia, was first confirmed in California two years ago. Since then, most of the trapped moths have been found in the Bay Area south to Monterey.

Posted in Wine Buzz
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