Thursday, June 10, 2010

Feds Allocate More Funds to Fight Grape Moth

Federal officials are pledging another $1.75 million to help eradicate an exotic pest that is threatening one of California leading and most lucrative export agriculture products – wine.

Officials from the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will use funds from the 2008 farm bill to continue the already more than $3 million fight against the European grapevine moth, which feeds on grapes.

The tiny 1/4-inch long pest, which is well known to growers in Europe, Japan, southern Russia, Chile and the near East, can also attack fruits and flowers of such plants as blackberries, cherries, nectarines, olives, persimmons, pomegranates and rosemary.

State and federal agriculture officials have declared the infestation of the moth, first discovered in the northern California Bay Area late last year, to be a serious threat to the state's $18 billion a year wine making industry. Since the first discovery of a grapevine moth, others have been discovered in the grape-growing areas of the Bay Area. Experts are still unclear as to how widespread the infestation may be.

The moth can feed on either the grape fruit or flower, but when it feeds on mature grapes it can cause both visible damage to the fruit and a botrytis infection, also known as bunch rot. Both the visible damage and the rot render the fruit useless.

The European grapevine moth is in the same taxonomic family as the Australian light brown apple moth, which has already led to a more than $75 million eradication program since an infestation began in California's Bay Area in 2007.

USDA officials are also set to announce this week that an additional $1 million will be made available directly to growers for the use of environmentally friendly treatments to eradicate the moth.