Sonoma County agriculture officials plan to set out 7,000 traps this spring in search of the invasive European grapevine moth.
The county will hire 10 extra workers to assist in setting out the traps around the county, said Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville.
The traps, part of a statewide effort, are needed to make sure the moth doesn't get established in the county's vineyards.
"It would be just devastating to the wine industry," Neville said.
In contrast, the county will use about 470 traps this spring to monitor another invasive pest, the light brown apple moth. The difference, Neville said, is officials already have good information on where the apple moth exists locally.
The grapevine moth, a native of Mediterranean Europe, was found in September in a Napa County vineyard. It was the first time the pest had been found in the United States.
The grapevine moth is deemed a threat to California's table grape and raisin crops, as well as to its wine grapes, officials said.
In response, Congress has allocated $332,000 for a grapevine-moth-trapping program throughout California, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The effort would seek to find if the pest exists anywhere outside Napa County.
As well, Napa grape industry leaders say they are encouraging growers there this spring to use organic and what they call low-impact pesticides wherever the pest is suspected.
In Sonoma County, Neville said, the moth-trapping program will begin in March.
While county farm officials are just gearing up to look for the grapevine moth, they have been fighting the light brown apple moth for two years.
Last week(Feb. 9), Neville won permission from the Board of Supervisors to spend more than $870,000 this fiscal year combatting the apple moth.
The money will be spent partly to educate farmers, especially grape growers, on ways to prevent the spread of the apple moth while still getting crops to market. Funds also will pay for inspections at harvest.
The money is provided by the state and federal governments.
Preliminary figures indicate the county soon will have about 300 square miles of land under quarantine because of the apple moth. That includes more than a third of the county's 62,000 acres of vineyards.
Even so, Neville said, last year no farmers were prevented from harvesting their crops or getting them to market.
"We were able to allow business to continue as usual," she said.
The apple moth, a native of Australia, was first confirmed in California in early 2007, and now is in at least 18 counties.
That year the state began aerial spraying of a chemical that disrupts moth mating over Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. But officials later dropped that program after intense public opposition.
Critics maintain the apple moth has been in the state for decades, is too difficult to eradicate and can be controlled by farmers using routine pest management techniques. But state and federal officials say the data suggests the moth is a relative newcomer and its eradication is needed to spare farmers from economic harm.
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or email@example.com