USA: California Wine Industry Threatened by Vine Disease; Small Insect Poses Danger to Napa Valley Warns the October 15th Issue of Wine Spectator

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California's thriving premium wine industry may be in danger. A recently arrived small insect known as the glassy-winged sharpshooter is spreading a deadly vine blight called Pierce's disease, which is rapidly moving toward Napa Valley, the heart of California's fine wine industry. A comprehensive report in the upcoming October 15th issue of Wine Spectator magazine concludes that the insect "could potentially cause billions of dollars in damage and wipe whole grapegrowing districts off the map." There is currently no known cure to this fatal vine disease. Pierce's disease has been lurking in California's vineyards for more than a century, spread by another insect called the blue-green sharpshooter. Over the years, the disease remained a minor problem because the blue-green sharpshooter is a relatively feeble bug. The glassy-winged sharpshooter which first made its appearance in southern California about 10 years ago, is bigger, stronger and more voracious than its blue-green relative causing the spread of Pierce's disease to suddenly accelerate, with no end in sight. The insect has already infested 11 California counties, including Sacramento, just 70 miles east of Napa Valley. In late July, a single glassy-winged sharpshooter was trapped in the small town of Middletown...less than a dozen miles from the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma. Robert Dowell, the chief entomologist for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, told Wine Spectator that "we're feeling like we're sitting on a time bomb...the problem is no one knows where the bomb is, and nobody knows how fast it is ticking, and nobody knows how much time is left." Wine Spectator cautions that if the dire predictions about the spread of the disease come true, the Golden State's wine industry may face setbacks for many years to come.

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