- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The San Francisco Chronicle today ran a lengthy story about the trend in California vineyards toward more sustainable farming practices.
Freelance reporter Deborah Grossman noted that, decades ago, "entomologists at several UC campuses recognized a pending crisis from excessive chemical usage, which increased risks to worker health, pest outbreaks and pesticide resistance." Researchers introduced the concept of Integrated Pest Management in 1959.
Grossman interviewed San Luis Obispo County farmer Mitch Wyss. During the growing season, Grossman reported, Wyss consults a well-worn copy of "Grape Pest Management" by University of California researchers. Wyss counts leafhoppers in his vineyard weekly, purchases lacewings or ladybugs when numbers rise and uses a soft chemical spray only if needed.
The story contained information from a number of farmers and academics, including UC Riverside nematologist Michael McKenry, UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension specialist Kent Daane and UC Davis viticulturist Andy Walker.
McKenry commented on the difficulty of controlling nematodes without pesticides. "The only natural solution is to rotate the land," he is quoted.
Daane spoke about one of grape growers' newest pest challenges, the vine mealy bug. Daane told the reporter that the pest has few natural predators and is present year-round, breeding up to seven times a year.
Walker announced in March, the reporter wrote in the story, that new grape rootstocks are available with resistance to phylloxera and nematodes.