AUGUST 10, 2020. BY STEPHANIE BOLTON, PhD.
In 2019, the Lodi Winegrape Commission and five local growers were awarded a $50,000 Professional + Producer grant from the USDA’s Western SARE program for “A Collaborative Beneficial Insect and Pheromone Mating Disruption Demonstration Project.” The Western SARE program models a philosophy of practical learning which perfectly matches that of the Commission and our growers: learn by doing, together. According to their website, SARE’s mission is to advance—to the whole of American agriculture—innovations that improve profitability, stewardship, and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education. Sounds familiar, right?!
In agriculture, we constantly search for environmentally responsible pest management tools to reduce our reliance on synthetic plant protectants. Implementing natural biocontrol for insect pests is best practiced before resistance to insecticides develops. However, due to lack of experience and increased costs for materials and labor, producers are reluctant to experiment with biocontrol. Leafroll virus is infecting California grapevines at an alarming rate due to an aggressive insect vector, the vine mealybug. Leafroll virus infections reduce crop yield and quality, decrease a vineyard’s lifespan, and make the land less suitable for future grapevine plantings. In Lodi where we have 750 farmers and 100,000 acres of vineyards, it is imperative to demonstrate mealybug biocontrol.
Thus, we undertook “A Collaborative Beneficial Insect and Pheromone Mating Disruption Demonstration Project” where a team of farmers practiced cooperative, region-wide vine mealybug biocontrol. Farmers used plant protectants that are safe for beneficial, conducted beneficial insect releases, and applied a blanket of protective pheromone mating disruption across five vineyards. This team of early-adopter farmers will set an example for Lodi by demonstrating the environmental, social, and economic benefits of cooperatively using biocontrol to manage a threatening disease. Our team also hosted a “Biocontrol Family Field Day” in July 2019 where Lodi’s farmers and their children were invited to learn about collaborative pheromone mating disruption and participate in a drone beneficial insect release. The challenge of mealybugs and viruses, along with farmer experiences using biocontrol during this project, are explained in a short outreach video premiering on Thursday, August 13, 2020 (see below). Hopefully, after learning about beneficial insects and pheromone mating disruption from this project, other farmers in Lodi will adopt biocontrol tools as part of long-term mealybug and virus management.
Project objectives from proposal:
- To demonstrate collaborative mealybug biocontrol efforts.
- To blanket five vineyards in mating disruption pheromone, reducing mealybug populations as measured by regular trapping and monitoring.
- To support and augment natural populations of beneficial insects that act as predators and parasites to the vine mealybug.
- To produce a fun and educational “Family Field Day” where farmers and their families learn about the importance of mealybug biocontrol.
- To produce and distribute a professional educational outreach video highlighting the challenges growers face while trying to manage vine mealybugs and leafroll virus, along with their collaborative biocontrol management strategy.
- To produce and distribute a blog post/newsletter article to 1000+ winegrowing community members about the project and what was learned.
Please join us as we premiere our Mealybug Biocontrol video on YouTube! Event details below.
MEALYBUG BIOCONTROL VIDEO PREMIERE.
Date: August 13, 2020
Time: 4 – 4:10pm (PST) – click the link a few minutes early
Venue: Online via YouTube
Description: The Lodi Winegrape Commission, Dr. Kent Daane, and five participating growers were awarded a Western SARE grant in 2019 to demonstrate mealybug biocontrol in vineyards. As you are well aware, vine mealybugs are spreading like wildfire around California and they transmit viruses (leafroll and vitiviruses) which can lead to reduced grape quality, lower yields, and in some cases even collapsing vineyard patches (as with the sudden vine collapse). Join us live and interact via the chat box on YouTube as we premiere a short video explaining the mealybug and virus challenge, biocontrol options, the power of teamwork, and how we are engaging the next generation through our biocontrol efforts.
No registration necessary – simply click on the link above just before 4pm. All are welcome to join us. The video will continue to be available for viewing at the same link, youtube.com/watch?v=QF4hc1hS3-I.
A special thanks to Chris Storm (Vino Farms, REC Committee Member, LODI RULES Committee Member, Mealybug Biocontrol Focus Group Member, and Grapevine Virus Research Focus Group Member) for pushing this project along from conception through completion.
We’d also like to thank our participating farmers: Craig Ledbetter (Vino Farms), Mike Klouda and Kevin Phillips (Michael David Winery), Charlie Starr IV (Starr Vineyard), Heather Pyle-Lucas and David Lucas (ZinStar Vineyard and The Lucas Winery), and Markus and Liz Bokisch (Bokisch Vineyards). Dr. Kent Daane once again provided invaluable support and expertise – we don’t know what we’d do without you! Our industry colleagues teamed up to help us get the most out of the project and enhance the engagement level, especially for the children. A heartfelt thanks to Brett Chandler and Joe Canchola (Associates Insectary), Loraine Lee (Suterra), Jeannine Lowrimore (Pacific Biocontrol), Chandler and Jaclyn Bennett + Kevin Hill (parabug), Jen Young and Uri Griner (WOW museum), and Robert Calzada (Still Life Co. – who has an incredible amount of patience with video edits and who is now a mealybug expert!). Finally, we believe in the importance of making our outreach understandable and approachable, and appreciate our non-farmer video reviewers for their wise suggestions: Janice Durant, Cynthia Lally, and Trula Tener. Thanks, everyone!!
This project builds upon findings learned through previous grant projects:
- Formation of a Mealybug Biocontrol Research Focus Group for Crush District 11 (American Vineyard Foundation)
- Grapevine Virus Management in Lodi: A Collaborative Research & Integrated Outreach Effort to Help Solve a Statewide Challenge (American Vineyard Foundation & CDFA’s PD/GWSS Board)
A recently-awarded BIFS grant project, led by Dr. Kent Daane, will allow for further studies of regional mealybug and virus management over the next several years:
- Refinement and Implementation of an Areawide Program for Vineyard Pathogens and their Insect Vectors (CDFA’s OPCA)
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.
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