- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The four-year grant, "Ecobiology, Impact, and Management of Grapevine Red Blotch Virus and Its Vector(s) in California and Oregon Vineyards," from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), continues through August 2023.
“Red blotch is a huge new problem for the grape industry, and this is the first large government grant to study it,” said project director Anita Oberholster, Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. “We will be working in partnership to take the first steps to understand the disease and develop sustainable management practices to support the grape industry.”
Oberholster said the virus affects both white and red grape varieties and can have a "significant impact on wine quality." Integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Rachael Goodhue, professor and chair, UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics, serve as co-directors.
In a greenhouse study in 2016, members of the Zalom lab and his USDA-ARS research collaborator Mysore ‘Suhdi' Sudarshana of the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology found that the three-cornered alfalfa hopper, Spissistilus festinus, transmitted the virus. Prior to their discovery, the treehopper was considered only an occasional pest due to its feeding and egg laying that girdled stems, causing the portion of the plant above the girdle to turn red on red grape varieties.
In their successful grant application, the scientists wrote that grapevine red blotch virus (GRBV) is a prominent disease found in the majority of grape growing regions in California and Oregon. "The grape industry currently lacks best practices for detecting and preventing spread of GRBV within and among vineyards. The discovery of S. festinus as a vector of GRBV significantly increased the possibility of better understanding the epidemiology of GRBD and ultimately its management. However, GRBD spread also occurs in vineyards where S. festinus has not been found. Therefore, information on potential additional vector species in these regions is paramount."
"Replanted vineyards in California and Oregon have experienced reinfections and a better understanding on the prevalence of GRBV and assessment of risk factors are needed," they wrote. "Proposed research will address knowledge gaps involving the epidemiology of the virus as driven by studies on its vectors and determining how the disease affects grapevine performance and grape quality. The economic impact of GRBV infection on producers and nurseries will also be determined. Sustainable GRBV management strategies developed from the project will be implemented to enhance economic and social impacts and to reduce the impact on environment. This project brings together researchers, extension specialists and stakeholders from CA and OR to help solve a significant new problem facing this valuable specialty crops industry. Outreach activities will be extended to the other states and can thus impact the grape industry in the country."
(Editor's Note: UC Davis News Service contributed to this story and the leaf photo)