North Bay ag inspectors on alert for destructive pest

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Agriculture inspectors are on alert and ready to do battle with the glassy winged sharpshooter, a pest that could threaten the wine industry.

Agriculture inspectors in the North Bay are on alert and ready to do battle with a pest that's threatening the state's multi-million-dollar wine industry.

The glassy winged sharpshooter has tried to migrate to Northern California before and will try again.

Sharpshooter traps are now showing up in Marin and Sonoma counties where the pest has been found.

A bug trap was placed in wine maker Louis Foppiano's vineyard to try to save his livelihood from ruin.

"They put some kind of bait to attract bugs," Foppiano said. "You'll lose a vine immediately. I mean, within a year or two years, you'll have a dead vine."

The glassy winged sharpshooter is tiny -- only about a half inch -- but it can kill plants and vines by spreading Pierce's Disease, which cuts off a plant's water supply.

"Just think of it as mosquitoes spreading malaria, it's exactly the same thing," Foppiano said.

Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Lisa Correia is waging war against the pest, preventing its spread from Southern California. Warm weather and an early spring have increased the threat.

"We have a $600 million wine grape industry to protect," Correia said.

Bright yellow sharpshooter traps are a common sight. Every shipment of plants arriving from the southland is inspected. Recently, eggs from a sharpshooter were found on a cargo shipment.

"Fortunately, there is a checking system and we were able to find and were able to ship the plants back to Southern California, so we don't have the risk here," Correia said.

Deanna Tubbs at Pricket's Nursery says inspections of new plants happen every week. She explained, "They look at each leaf and look under leaves and see if they find any egg masses."

It may sound excessive, but consider the alternative -- the sharpshooter decimated thousands of acres of vineyards in Temecula in 1999. No one wants history repeating itself in the North Bay.

Related Topics:
businesspestswinewine industryfarmingnapa countysonoma countyHealdsburg
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