Phylloxera Problem not as Urgent as Initially Thought

MESA COUNTY, Colo.-The Executive Director of the Colorado Wine Industry Board says Phylloxera is not as urgent as a problem as initially thought.

The bug, feeds on the roots of the vines, affecting grape production and eventually killing the plant.

After sampling multiple vineyards in Mesa County for the microscopic pest Phylloxera, the results are in.

"We have found Phylloxera in 8 vineyards here in the Grand Valley, we have found it in one Delta County vineyard. We also had many, many, many negatives," says Horst Caspari, State Viticulturist.

About one in five vineyards are testing positive, but the bugs are only being found in very small areas.

"Probably less than one percent of the area of vineyards in the state is currently effected, in total acreage, by Phylloxera," adds Caspari.

One Grand Junction vineyard that tested positive is fighting against the pest.

"It's very disheartening, just because it means a lot more work for us. We knew we'd probably have to be doing some replanting and more complex management practices," says Nancy Janes, Owner and Winemaker at Whitewater Hill Vineyards.

That includes sanitizing boots and farm equipment, because on there own, the bugs don't spread very fast.

"Phylloxera is a very slow problem. It usually starts in a very isolated area and expands," adds Janes.

Studies are now being done to determine how fast the bugs are maturing and spreading.

"When are they changing, when is that population increase happening? So that's why we're sampling here in our vineyard where we know we have a Phylloxera population," says Caspari.

Catching the problem early has helped; a lot more is still to be done, but there is a silver lining.

"We are probably looking at the biggest grape crop ever in 2017, with or without Phylloxera. It has such a small impact right now. It will change over time, but we do have time to respond to it," says Caspari.

What's coming up next it a statewide effort to sample around 140 vineyards for the presence of Phylloxera.

In the meantime, the Colorado Wine Board is asking those who visit wineries for tourism and tastings to not enter the vineyards.

This will help reduce the spread of the bugs due to contamination.

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