Aug 26, 2017
Growers aided by Pierce’s disease funding

The California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) praised the recent inclusion of a $5 million one-year augmentation for the Pierce’s Disease Control Program (PDCP) in the 2017-18 state budget, saying the money was much-needed.

Pierce’s disease is a bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, spread by glassy-winged sharpshooters that feed on infected vegetation and then inject the bacterium into the sap of nearby grapevines. The bacterium lives and multiplies in a plant’s xylem, eventually blocking the movement of water and killing the vine. There is no known cure for Pierce’s disease. It affects only plant physiology and the vine’s ability to produce a crop, and does not affect wine quality and or pose a health risk to wine consumers. There are many other California crops and commodities threatened by Pierce’s disease, including almonds, citrus, stone fruits, alfalfa and oleander.

CAWG issued the following statement:

“Gov. Jerry Brown on June 27 signed the 2017-18 state budget, which included a much-needed $5 million one-year budget augmentation for the Pierce’s Disease Control Program (PDCP). The PDCP is administered by the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy- winged Sharpshooter (PD/GWSS) Board within the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The $5 million will be used to support the PDCP’s mission, which is to minimize the statewide impact of Pierce’s disease and its vectors in California. The program provides much-needed protection to California’s valuable wine and grape industry and the economic activity it generates. From 2000 to 2011, the PDCP was considered a model for how state, federal and industry funds could be used in collaboration to tackle critical agricultural issues. The program receives federal funding, but has received no state funding since 2011.

CAWG pushed to secure the $5 million budget augmentation in the state Senate and Assembly. Thirty lawmakers signed a bipartisan and bicameral letter to the budget committees asking for the funding. Several assembly members testified in support of the augmentation, worked closely with CAWG and led the efforts in the state Legislature. CAWG’s goal is to continue advocating for the state to invest in the PDCP in future budget years.”

“CAWG sought this critical funding – which represents the first state investment in the program since 2011 – because the Pierce’s Disease Control Program provides vital services that protect vineyards from potentially devastating infestations and disease,” said CAWG Director of Government Relations Michael Miiller.

“This funding was not in the governor’s proposed budget in January,” Miller said. “However, through CAWG’s engagement and advocacy over the past five months, lawmakers and the governor saw the value of this program and agreed to the additional funding. CAWG is grateful to legislative leaders and the Brown administration for their support of the program and board.”

For more information on Pierce’s Disease Control Program visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/pdcp/ or the California Association of Winegrape Growers at www.cawg.org.

Disease Background

Wine Institute, an advocacy and public policy association for California wine, has for years been monitoring Pierce’s disease and its impact on the industry.

A report on the institute’s website states that since 1998, government and industry have mobilized with $65.2 million in assistance, a statewide management program and research to combat the glassy-winged sharpshooter and the deadly Pierce’s disease that it carries, which threatens California’s $2.7 billion wine, table and raisin grape industry and a host of other agricultural commodities.

In addition, the state’s wine industry introduced a statute that was signed into law to establish an assessment on winegrapes to help provide more funds for the fight.

“Currently, the extensive control and eradication program is slowing the spread of the glassy-winged sharpshooter and buying time for the research community to develop permanent solutions,” the institute’s report states. “New findings on gene sequencing of the Pierce’s disease bacterium already hold promise for a cure. Damage by Pierce’s disease has affected less than one percent of the state’s 568,000 winegrape acres since 1994, but because the GWSS moves quickly and Pierce’s disease can kill a vine in two years, California has responded now to stop this potentially devastating threat before it affects wider portions of the state’s wine and grape industry.

Accidentally introduced in 1989 through nursery stock imported from the southern U.S., the glassy-winged sharpshooter has spread Pierce’s disease with astonishing speed, the report stated. It is voracious, an aggressive flyer, and feeds and breeds on at least 133 host plants. To date, 15 counties have been identified by the state as being infested with the glassy-winged sharpshooter, primarily in Southern California and southern San Joaquin Valley, and there is concern about its spread throughout the state.

Photo: UCANR, Jack Kelly Clark

— Gary Pullano, managing editor

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