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Suterra Aids in Lodi Area-Wide Vine Mealybug Biocontrol Demonstration in Grapes

Suterra May 10, 2023 7:00:00 AM
Healthy wine grapes in a vineyard.

Suterra’s CheckMate® mating disruption products for vine mealybug were used in a collaborative Integrated Pest Management demonstration project funded by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). Throughout the two-year project, growers and researchers worked together in grape vineyards in the Lodi, California area to demonstrate the effectiveness of two of the most popular IPM strategies for combating vine mealybug (VMB): mating disruption and biocontrol.  Learn more about the project here.

Vine mealybug increases as a vineyard threat

Over the past two decades, vine mealybug has become an increasingly prominent threat to vine growers throughout California. As vine mealybug can spread leafroll virus, which can permanently damage vines and make vineyards less suitable for replanting, growers are understandably seriously concerned about the rapid spread of this pest. 

Several integrated pest management (IPM) strategies have been explored to control this insect, the most popular of which have been augmentative biocontrol and mating disruption. Through a grant from SARE, the Lodi Winegrape Commission worked with and demonstrated to growers in the region that sustainable IPM strategies can be extremely effective at managing this severe pest.

In previous work, Principle Investigator Dr. Stephanie Bolton determined that the use of pheromone-based mating disruption products is “imperative for the Lodi winegrowing region” in order to combat vine mealybug. Therefore, this Lodi project was not about proving the efficacy of mating disruption but instead demonstrating its value to growers that may be unfamiliar with the technology and increasing the adoption of this sustainable approach. 

Using science and outreach to help grape growers

Suterra provided all trapping materials and mating disruption products to each of the participating vineyards for this project. Growers could choose between Suterra’s CheckMate® VMB-F sprayable formulation and CheckMate® VMB-XL dispenser product, depending on what fit their vineyard’s unique layout and situation.

Throughout the demonstration, growers found results that further confirmed what previous studies had already determined: mating disruption as the foundation for the IPM program is highly effective. Charlie Starr IV and Aaron Lange, two of the cooperating growers, took their earlier experiences with this project and applied it on a larger scale. The results were again dramatic. In vineyards where mating disruption was used, growers trapped an average of only 17 mealybugs per block, as opposed to an average of 628 in non-mating disruption blocks.

Perhaps more important than the results themselves was the outreach to Lodi area wine growers this project provided. Despite the abundance of studies proving the efficacy of mating disruption to reduce vine mealybug populations, there remains great value for growers to observe first-hand a novel technology or approach in one’s own ‘neighborhood.’ As part of the funding for this project, the Lodi Winegrape Commission created an educational Family Field Day for growers and their families to learn the fundamentals of pheromone mating disruption. In addition, the Commission produced a promotional video explaining the benefits of using biocontrol to control this pest, which can be viewed on Youtube.

Suterra is committed to going above and beyond to support such initiatives and engage in grower outreach. By offering our resources and expertise to this project, we helped more wine growers in the Lodi area become aware of the challenges vine mealybug can pose, and the options available to manage the pest. If you have questions about vine mealybug, mating disruption, or integrated pest management, contact your local Suterra representative or reach out to our career team and we can connect you with an expert.