Vines stripped in Santa Clara Co over grapevine moth

September 30, 2010 1:20:57 AM PDT
State and local agriculture officials are taking some drastic measures to protect grape growers against a new enemy -- the European grapevine moth.

About 94 square miles in Santa Clara County are affected. Teams pulled more than half a ton of grapes from back yard vineyards as a precaution.

At just seven millimeters, the European grapevine moth has the potential to destroy all of California's vineyards and more. Recently, researchers found three moths at several Gilroy wineries. If the larvae, which actually live inside and feed on the grapes, aren't destroyed now, there could be major ramifications.

"The population would expand and potentially move to other growers and endanger the entire industry," says Eric Wylde from the Agriculture and Environmental Management Agency.

Starting on Wednesday, state and county agriculture officials are pulling all the grapes from nearby backyard vineyards.

The grapes county and state officials are removing belong to people that grow their own grapes at home. Those grapes are used to make small amounts of wine, jam, and to eat.

Teams took all of Gilroy resident Bernie Epolite's un-harvested grapes. Her vines are now bare.

"It was found in our vineyards that are 100 yards away from where I live and that is kind of devastating," says Epolite.

Within that distance is Jason-Stephens' Winery where the first moth was found. Commercial growers and wineries aren't impacted by this mandatory removal but they are regulating themselves, which isn't cheap.

"It's going to cost us extra $15,000 to $20,000 in pesticides which we don't want to use, but this is very serious," says Stephen Dorcich from Dorcich Vineyard.

Thursday, more grapes from lots on Day Road will be pulled and destroyed. Debbie Vanderzwaag has harvested only half her grapes.

"About half our crop will disappear all the zinfandel and petite syrah. We'll have no wine next year," says Vanderzwaag.

It is a price some will pay to save the rest.


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