Home Industry News Coordinated Neighborhood Effort to Control Vine Mealybug in Southern Oregon Pays Off After First Year

Coordinated Neighborhood Effort to Control Vine Mealybug in Southern Oregon Pays Off After First Year

Jacksonville grape growers worked together to successfully squash vine mealybug (VMB) in 2023 with help from Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Less than one year after state-approved emergency funds were granted to address the VMB problem in Oregon, zero VMBs were caught in Jackson County, the site of first detection.

In 2021, VMB was found in Oregon for the first time through regular monitoring efforts conducted by OSU Extension staff based at OSU’s Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC). Vine mealybug is a quarantined pest in Oregon and serves as a threat to vineyard virus spread (Grape Leafroll associated Virus) and impacts on fruit quality. In 2022, a delimitation survey was set up by the ODA to determine the extent of the VMB presence just outside of Jacksonville, OR. A total of 450 traps were deployed in an area of approximately three square miles across 130 properties. By the end of the growing season, 25,459 male vine mealybugs were caught, with catch numbers decreasing exponentially with distance away from the site of first identification (Fig. 1). The high trap counts raised alarms among neighborhood growers, as well as those further away across Jackson County and throughout Oregon. It was clear that this new pest was established, and a multi-level coordinated effort was needed to suppress and control the emerging problem.

Figure 1. VMB delimitation results from 2022 in Jackson County. Property identification information has been removed to protect the area growers. Data courtesy of ODA and Rick Hilton.

In 2023, two collaborative and simultaneous efforts were initiated to address the VMB situation in Jackson County and beyond. First, the growers in and around the original delimitation zone rallied together and organized a meeting at SOREC in April 2023. The meeting included OSU Extension faculty from SOREC and OWRI and ODA staff to review relevant background information about VMB pertaining to its general biology, its management, and the current situation. From that meeting on, the neighborhood growers intended to work together to control this problem to prevent spread and were not there to place blame. The main outcome of that meeting was a coordinated integrated pest management (IPM) plan for the Jacksonville area, supported by SOREC faculty and staff, and supplemented by generous donations of control materials – valued at $50,000 – from chemical companies through OSU-facilitated partnerships. This could not have come at a better time, as the existing ODA funding for VMB monitoring was running out by June, and there were no funds available to support control efforts in 2023.

At the same time, the Oregon Winegrowers Association (OWA) began collaborating with the ODA, the OSU Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension Service, and other industry associations to develop a comprehensive proposal requesting emergency funding from the state legislature to sustain control efforts in Jackson County and expand VMB monitoring throughout the state. This collaboration resulted in the allocation of $447,100 in emergency state funding. The funding provided the ODA with needed resources to finish their efforts for 2023 and implement three critical objectives over the next biennium:

  1. 1)  Suppress VMB in southern Oregon
  2. 2)  Delimit VMB in southern Oregon

     

    3) Conduct a statewide VMB survey

    By the end of the 2023 growing season, the Jacksonville grower group – with support from OSU – had successfully applied treatments (mating disruption and/or systemic pesticides) to their infested vineyards. The ODA had finished its delimitation survey in the same area as before, with 360 traps deployed in a grid around the original Jacksonville area. Finally, the statewide VMB trapping program had been successfully deployed, with numerous participating vineyards throughout the state.

    The efforts of the Jacksonville group paid dividends with zero VMB detections in 2023. Though many of their properties were already under quarantine, their measured and systematic approach demonstrated the effectiveness of working together to solve these multidimensional agricultural pest problems. Of course, VMB does not respect property lines, so such strategies are critical to gain control over a challenging problem. This neighborhood pest management approach coupled with high quality information dissemination, has also been effective in other grape growing regions, such as the Napa Valley and Eastern Washington, as documented in the recent open-access paper by Hobbs et al. (2023).

    The Jacksonville group organized another meeting a month ago (April 2024) at SOREC to review and debrief the positive results from 2023, and to plan for 2024 activities. Spirits were high but measured. Everyone in the room understood that the problem was not solved, as VMB is not considered eradicated, and that continued efforts were needed for the 2024 growing season. However, armed with the experience of successfully suppressing VMB in 2023, the technical support of OSU faculty and staff at SOREC and OWRI, the diligent monitoring of ODA, and the state-appropriated funds to reimburse growers for control treatments, the group was confident that they could continue to control VMB in 2024 and into the future.  By Dr. Alec Levin, Director and Viticulturist, Oregon State University – SOREC

    Literature Cited

    Hobbs, M.B., S.M. Vengco, S.L. Bolton, L.J. Bettiga, M.M. Moyer, M.L. Cooper, and M. Sosnowski. 2023.

    Meeting the Challenge of Viral Disease Management in the US Wine Grape Industries of California and Washington: Demystifying Decision Making, Fostering Agricultural Networks, and Optimizing Educational Resources. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research 2023:1-17.

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