Ag commissioner gets state grant to fight grapevine pest

A grant from the state of more than $41,500 will help the San
Benito County Agriculture Commissioner’s office to continue the war
against the glassy-winged sharpshooter.
A grant from the state of more than $41,500 will help the San Benito County Agriculture Commissioner’s office to continue the war against the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture is offering the funds as part of a statewide effort to monitor, capture and control the grapevine-killing pest.

The grant, which totals $41,551.81, will run through the rest of the 2002-2003 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The agriculture commissioner’s office has annually accepted similar grants ever since the glassy-winged sharpshooter was discovered in California about two years ago, Commissioner Mark Tognazzini said.

The sharpshooter is native to the southeastern U.S. and northern Mexico. The quarter- to half-inch-long pest is responsible for spreading a plant infection called Pierce’s disease, which has infected thousands of acres of grapevines in Riverside County and has caused more than $40 million in damage to vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Local officials are concerned that the disease-carrying bug could find its way into local vineyards and cause a large amount of damage.

“There have been no glassy-winged sharpshooters found in San Benito County,” Tognazzini said.

When the sharpshooter’s threat arose a little more than two years ago in Southern California, Tognazzini and local agriculture officials took action to prevent its spread into San Benito County, including getting an exemption from the California Nursery Stock Certificate program. As a result, all host plant nursery stock from infested areas are marked with a “blue tag” and held for inspection by the county agricultural office, Tognazzini said.

“A viable egg mass was discovered during routine inspection last season, which means we may have already quelled an infestation,” he said.

The county requires all infested nursery stock to be shipped out, treated or destroyed.

Tognazzini said if the pests are not brought in to the county on infected plants or nursery stock, any real threat of infestation could be held off for a long time.

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