Sonoma County's first grapevine moth

  • David Jagdeo, an agricultural program assistant with the Sonoma County Agricultural Commisioner's Office, hangs a trap in a vineyard, near Sebastopol, on Thurday, April 1, 2010. The Agricultural Commisioner's Office is on the lookout for the European grapevine moth.

The European grapevine moth, a pest that last year destroyed the crop in a Napa Valley vineyard, has turned up in Sonoma County, agriculture officials said Thursday.

A single moth was found this week in an agricultural area near Kenwood, said county Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville. She would not disclose the location.

The discovery is the first outside of Napa County, where the pest was first found in the United States last September, a state official said. An estimated 50,000 traps are being placed this spring around California in search of the pest.

The find of a single moth doesn't trigger any quarantine or restrictions on growers. But the news proved sobering to farmers because the moth already has demonstrated its ability to damage grapes.

"I think it's alarming, but anticipated that we would have a find in the county," said Lex McCorvey, president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

"I think the question is how manageable will this pest be and can we get ahead of the curve in managing it so that it doesn't have severe economic ramifications," McCorvey said.

The European grapevine moth is considered a much more serious threat to the state's grape industry than the light brown apple moth, a pest that became the focus of long-standing controversy after the state conducted aerial spraying in 2007 near Monterey.

The apple moth first showed up in Sonoma County two years ago, and at least a fifth of Sonoma County vineyards are now under quarantine. The pest can feed on leaves, buds and fruit of various plants, but to date no officials have reported damaged caused by the apple moth in Sonoma County.

In contrast, grapevine moths last Septemeber ruined a grape crop in an Oakville vineyard. The pests attacked the berries and infected them with botrytis, also known as bunch rot.

Last month the state placed a large swath of the Napa Valley under quarantine in response to the grapevine moth. The quarantine rules have yet fully to be spelled out, but Neville expects growers will be able to move their crops to market as long as they demonstrate they aren't helping the pest spread to new areas. Such rules would be similar to those for apple moth quarantines.

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