Research into devastating vineyard disease producing results

RIVERSIDE - Researcher Caroline Roper turned a potted grape vine onto its side and treated the stem with a clear liquid intended to protect it from the ravages of Pierce's disease.

Her work is part of promising vaccine trials being funded by growers through millions of dollars in self-imposed fees targeting the disease that nearly wiped out a major California wine region and has stifled wine industries in several other states.

Growers in Florida and Texas are eagerly watching the results of the trials and other experiments with the hope that they might soon be able to grow their own cabernets, pinots and other European varietals.

"We're finally getting to the point where we're seeing some results," said Ben Drake, a grower in the Temecula Valley area of Southern California, where Pierce's disease destroyed more than 2,000 acres of grapes a decade ago.

The region is making a comeback but about 1,000 acres have yet to be returned to production.

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