Pierce’s Disease Research Advancing

Many Projects Under Way To Reduce Pierce’s Disease in Grapes

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The glassy-winged sharpshooter vectors Pierce’s Disease, which has been devastating grape growers in California for the last few years. California Ag Today recently spoke with Ken Freeze, the Outreach and Education Director for the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board, a program that uses winegrower’s assessments to fund research. He spoke with us about research that’s been carried out to hopefully find a cure for Pierce’s Disease.

Pierce’s Disease is caused by a bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, that reduces the vascular function of the vine. The sharpshooter insect vectors the bacteria.

“Andy Walker, with the Department of Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis, has been working on Pierce’s Disease-resistant grapevines. We just released some of those vines to the Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis,” Freeze said. “There are 14 more that are in the wings about ready to go. Some nurseries will be able to get that pretty soon, but already there are about 4,000 of his vines planted. Some of them have been planted in Georgia and Texas, which are real hotspot for the glassy-winged sharpshooter and Pierce’s Disease.”

“Here in California, 2,000 vines were planted in Napa Valley right along the Napa River. Those vines are doing great,” Freeze said.

“We’ve got another project. University of Florida plant pathologist Dr. Don Hopkins has found a benign stain of Pierce’s Disease. It’s like inoculating a vine with a smallpox vaccination. That’s actually a company that’s working on commercializing that now,” Freeze explained.

“We’ve got another project that involves a modified root stalk that sends either a protein or a molecule up into the vine – a non-modified scion – five different ways that stops the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria literally in its tracks before it can cause Pierce’s Disease in the vine. That’s just a small sample of some of the really good projects.”

“One grower told me: ‘It’s not the end of the tunnel, but we can see it,’” Freeze said.

Jamming Leafhopper Signals

Jamming Leafhopper Signals to Reduce Insect Populations that Vector Plant Disease

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

 

An innovative team of researchers at the San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) in Parlier Calif., are trying to confuse leafhopper communication in hopes of reducing certain devastating plant diseases. Of particular interest is the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a large leafhopper that can vector or spread the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa from one plant to another which causes devastating plant diseases such as Pierce’s disease in grapes and almond leaf scorch

 

Dr. Rodrigo Krugner, a research entomologist on the USDA-ARS Parlier team since 2007, explained, “We started on this glassy-winged sharpshooter communication project about two years ago. These insects use substrate-borne vibrations, or sounds, to talk to, identify and locate each other; actually do courtship; and then mate,” Krugner said.

Click here to hear LEAFHOPPER SOUNDS!

Glassywinged Sharp Shooter
Glassywinged Sharp Shooter

 

“This area of research started probably 40, or 50 years ago with development of a commercially-available laser doppler vibrometer (LDV), a scientific instrument used to make non-contact vibration measurements of a surface,” Krugner said. “Commonly used in the automotive and aerospace engineering industries, the LDV enabled an entomologist to listen to and amplify leafhoppers communicating,” Krugner said. “We’ve been doing recordings in the laboratory, learning about their communication with the idea of breaking, or disrupting, that communication. Once we disrupt that, we can disrupt mating and thereby reduce their numbers in vineyards and among other crops.”

 

Krugner noted the research team is evaluating two different approaches: one is to discover signals that disrupt their communication, and the other is lure them away from crops or towards a trap. “We may be looking at female calls, for example. An analogous system would be the pheromones, or long-range attraction volatile chemicals released by female lepidoptera, to attract males.” However, since leafhoppers use only sound, Krugner said, “We’re trying to come up with signals to disrupt their mating communication. We’re also looking at signals to jam their frequency range, 4000-6000 Hz, so they cannot hear each other,” Kruger said. “We’re also looking at signals that can be used to aggregate them, or lure them, into one section of a crop, or maybe repel them from the crop. These are all different approaches that we’re investigating right now.”

 

Krugner explained, “Researchers are attempting to perfect the disruptive sounds in order to do the things we need—to actually implement a management strategy for disrupting not only glassy-winged sharpshooter, but anything in a vineyard that actually communicates using vibrational communication. We know what they are saying to each other, which is very important. In the laboratory, the signals that we have look promising in disrupting the communication of these insects, so we’re taking them into the field.

 

Current mating disruption trials are underway in Fresno State vineyards. “We’re going to finish that research, hopefully, next year,” said Krugner, adding, “usually, fieldwork takes two to three years to show something.”


(Featured photo:  Rodrigo Krugner, research entomologist, USDA-ARS, Parlier)


 

CAPCA’s Terry Stark: Biopesticides More Mainstream

Stark Speaks About CAPCA and its Role in the Biopesticide Industry.

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

 

Terry Stark, President and CEO of California Association of Pest Control Advisors (CAPCA,) told 140 attendees at the Biopesticide Industry Alliance semi-annual early April meeting in Sacramento, what his organization thinks about the softer pest and disease control products.

“CAPCA represents 3,000 members of the 4,000 licensed-PCAs in California.

We have expanded our educational outreach through CAPCA-ED. We run 40 seminars annually throughout the state to aid all license-holders to improve their categories,” Stark announced,” said Stark.

“The regulatory burden pushes us to be better and more advanced,” Stark said. “CAPCA has 16 chapters, and each chapter has a director seated on the state board. My Chairman of the board is Jeremy Briscoe a Certis USA national manager. So I believe CAPCA is very well integrated with the biopesticide industry. Jeremy is the first representative that is a non-retail, non-independent to serve as the chair of CAPCA. This is a big move in the mentality of what we do,” said Stark.

CAPCA has traditionally centered on the San Joaquin Valley – production agriculture – the heart and soul of diversified agriculture and the money. “However, in the last 10 years, the wine industry has taken a step higher than the our other crops. All of a sudden we have Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, and southward to Santa Maria and Ventura County.”

Stark explained that everything west of I-5 tended to be the “softer side” of PCAs and chemical use in California. “I say that with respect because the wine industry was looking for ways to use less conventional products, ways to brand both organically and sustainability and with lower tolerances for their products. That caught on solidly seven or eight years ago.” Stark continued, “My largest independent PCAs are between Mendocino and San Francisco.”

“Like my Ventura guys and gals, they use more biological controls by releasing a lot of beneficials,” said Stark. “And it’s hard to come in with a hard-core application and maintain your beneficial populations,” he said.

When Stark was asked to speak at the Biopesticide Alliance meeting, he was asked to talk about perceptions. “I reflected on what I saw as a manager when they hired me to come to CAPCA. You talk about perception of biopesticides, with all due respect to my membership, 30 percent think that it’s one way or the highway.

In the central part of the state, from Kern County and throughout the desert valleys, it’s still spray and run. It’s big business, big acres. But it has its place,” said Stark.

He spoke about California being a hodgepodge of the most invasive species in the world, with many new pests coming in seemingly every week.

“Our entire citrus industry is facing Asian Citrus Psyllid which vectors the deadly citrus greening disease; we just survived the Glassy-winged sharpshooters in the wine industry; and, we’ve got Shot-hole bores coming to avocados. This represents huge production areas,” he said.

CAPCA has recognized that there are new ideas in pest and disease control and has moved towards being able to incorporate other chemistries, pheromones, and other items into the tool chest.

 

CAPCA’s Aging Demographics

Stark shared some demographics of CAPCA. “In CAPCA meetings, I don’t see a lot of dark-haired people sitting in the room. I don’t see a lot of females sitting in the room.

Our gender is 10-15 percent females,” he said.

Seventy five percent of my membership has 16-plus years of experience as PCAs. CAPCA also manages 1,000 Certified Crop Advisor (CCAs) who focus on nutrient recommendations, and the same demographics carry over to them. Of that, 35 percent have 30-plus years of experience. Do you think many will work past 30 years?

CAPCA’s last membership survey was done in 2010. We are projecting a 20% loss of membership by 2015. And that continues outward in a five-year cycle.

Through the Department of Pest Regulations we are only testing maybe 12-15 percent maximum replacements with young PCAs coming into the cycle.

How do we survive? We are turning to electronics, iPhones, and iPads.

PCAs have to be licensed in California if you are using restricted-use materials, soliciting for sale, and/or acting as an expert thereof. That takes care of the whole sales group too.

So, in biopesticides, you’re outside of that umbrella in most ways. You have some products that you to play with, but overall, that gives a “softer approach” for the younger PCAs to look at.

 

 Working Areas of PCAs

Sixteen percent of PCAs work in field and row crops; 34 percent in trees & vines, the only ones getting water this year; vegetables at 12 percent; and turf and ornamentals –10 percent. Turf and ornamentals in California drop 50 percent in the last 5 years with the collapse of the housing and commercial real estate industries, plus golf courses, they have had a pullback. So our members have moved to retail and other areas.

If you are in PAC and you are in retail, you represent 30 percent of the industry. Eighteen percent are independents, and that means you truly do your own thing: if you have alfalfa, you have 20,000 acres you’re looking at; if you have citrus, you’ve got 3-5,000 acres; if you have vineyards, you’d better have 2-3000 acres to pay for it—if you want to make big money—and you’re working 7 days a week to do that. Seventeen percent are in-house; these are the Paramount’s and the Boswells of the industry. They hire CCAs and PCAs like full-time employee of the ranch.

The dynamics of I-5 is not moving into the Central Valley or into the southern counties. You have pockets of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara where you have nursery stocks, that‘s always been kind of open to the biopesticides industry and its products.

What I think has made the biopesticide industry successful, beyond all of your research, hard work and marketing, are the opportunities and the new wave of using your thumbs, and twitter, and communications, and Facebook, and social media in general. The outreach that you can do your business on the iPhone and still drive down the road, answering your clients’ questions has enabled the “boutique” industry in the last 5 years to come closer to the mainstream because customers don’t have to do any special work to find out about you. You are in their feed lines of information. These are important tools,” said Stark.

“California is a highly-regulated environment, so electronics has complemented other resources. I think the known fact that many products are less toxic is a huge benefactor,” he said.

“Take the Light Brown Apple Moth, which ended up being a environmental community PR campaign that kicked food and agriculture’s butt in California. And now every fruit tree in Santa Cruz is going to die from the apple moth. You can’t even move the firewood because it will contaminate the rest of the area,” Stark said.

The unknown elements of a pheromone to treat the moth were a big problem because the public did not understand, and the industry took it for granted. “The pheromone is about as soft and appropriate as you can get in the marketplace,” said Stark. “But we need to approach the public in a different way. And I think the biopesticide industry is doing a much better job,” he said.

“I’d be remiss with all of the large companies sitting in the room, the BASF’s, Syngenta’s, Bayer’s, the Valent’s—all have learned to adopt and bring into their tool chest additional products that can complement their conventional materials and usually make the grower more profit,” noted Stark.

“CAPCA doesn’t get into this much, but we have a lot regulatory obligation responsibility to protect the field worker. The toxicity and the life of the product go a long way in how you get back into the field,” he said.

“So, in the biopesticide world, you have a better opportunity of targeting the exact pest you need to target. It’s not a broad-spectrum-type deal. So that gives you the advantage. My PCAs see that– my 50 percent younger side in the house – sees that. And that’s a positive for this industry,” Stark said.

IPM is not a word that is understood until you get to California. CAPCA cannot do anything in his recommendation without being CEQA-oriented (California Environmental Quality Act) must look for alternative uses before any restrictive material can be made; otherwise he is in violation of his own recommendation. IPM, and biopesticide products fit that requirement to make that check mark when they do that.

“In addition, biologicals are lower priced than they ware 7-8 years ago. And that’s good because the grower doesn’t spend a dime more than they have to. If you think PCAs are out there pounding product or fertilizer on, and the farmer is not making any money, just three minutes later in the coffee shop, that guy is fired and another is hired,” Stark said.

“It is important to the sustainability in going forward, when you have a regulatory environment like we do in California. We have a built-in arena here and people are always listening to what can be done better and still make a profit. In my opinion, you are off to the races and biopesticides are mainstream now,” noted Stark.

If you can hit 15-20% of the marketplace, it’s been a great quarter-century run for you to get there and I think the CAPCA membership is looking forward to a long-lasting relationship.

He reminded attendees of the popular CAPCA Conference, Oct. 19-21, 2014 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. “I have 1,300 attendees and 150 exhibitors. What better place to be than with 800-900 license holders. It’s all relationships. Once you get the relationship, your social media, and your electronics, your product will sell itself,” Stark concluded.