Napa Enemy No. 1: The Mealybug

If it’s not the glassy-winged sharpshooter, it’s the mealybug.

While driving from Sonoma County into the northern Napa Valley a few weekends ago, I was greeted by the sign shown in the accompanying photo. It was a stark reminder that unless great care is taken to protect not only the land but also the crops grown on that land, an entire agricultural region could be imperiled.

Napa Valley already has seen a number of vineyards infected to the point that vines had to be uprooted, the land cleared, and new vines planted. That’s an expensive process that takes years to pay off, and that can transform an important agricultural decision into a line item on a spreadsheet.

So, Napa Valley’s vintners must take great care in striking a balance between protecting the land and protecting their livelihoods. The good news is that paying attention to the former almost always positively impacts the latter.

Such efforts always work better when pursued by groups rather than individuals, and with that in mind, a new Napa Valley group called the Rutherford Growers for Wine Quality has been formed.

At present, the major vector of leaf-roll virus in the area’s grapevines is the mealybug. Trapping began in May, and the mission of the new group is to coordinate trapping data. That’s the best way to track infestations and, ultimately, develop an effective spraying program. The group also will help coordinate replanting, where necessary, with an eye toward removing the virus from the area.

The balance between man and nature is delicate, and nature must always be respected. It’s good to see California’s North Coast vintners taking a proactive approach on this and so many other environmental issues, as detailed in several of our previous posts.

Posted in Wine and the Environment
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