LODI -- More than 200 concerned winegrape growers, producers and distributors packed into Oak Ridge Winery last week to hear federal and county officials talk about the newest invasive pest found in a Lodi vineyard: the European grapevine moth.
A quarantine zone is currently in place in Lodi after two European grapevine moths were found in the area two weeks ago. It stretches roughly from Acampo and borders along Jack Tone, Peltier and Davis roads.
The quarantine hits farmers in the target area particularly hard. Growers in the zone face additional costs to treat their crops and comply with rules allowing them to ship to other markets without spreading the pests.
"We need to make a full-court press against this," said Helene Wright, state plant health director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"You have to do whatever you deem necessary if you have the moth in your vineyard."
The meeting gave growers and officials a chance to meet face-to-face and discuss how the quarantine works and what is expected from both sides.
"To protect table grapes and fresh wine grapes, we need to stop the pest in California," said Scott Hudson, agricultural commissioner for San Joaquin County.
The European grapevine moth is originally from southern Italy and was first found in the United States in Napa in October 2009. It has also been found in Russia, North Africa, the Middle East, Japan and Chile.
The affected farmer has treated his vineyard and agricultural officials have asked all farmers within 1,000 yards of the property treat their vines as well.
San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner Scott Hudson said the European grapevine moths didn't arrive in the area naturally and could have been transported while attached to a vehicle.
Since the pests migrate so easily, it's important to closely monitor all action in the quarantine area, Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Gary Stockel said.
"We want to ensure the safe movement of bulk grapes to keep this at a low level," Stockel said. "We're trusting you to follow the requirements."
Spot checks planned
While he admitted the county won't be able to police every shipment and action inside the quarantine area, Stockel said spot checks will take place and those who don't comply will be fined. They could even have their rights to ship grapes revoked.
"The program has teeth," said Amy Blagg, executive director of the Lodi District Grape Growers Association.
According to the Integrated Pest Management program at the University of California at Davis, the moths create three specific threats per growing season and can cause extensive damage to grapes.
The first threat takes place in May and June when the larvae feeds on flower clusters. The second threat is when it feeds on the forming berries in July and August. The larvae of the European grapevine moth hollow the green berries out and leave behind only the skin and seeds.
Finally, the moth can cause the most widespread damage by feeding on the forming bunches and leaving excrement behind, infecting the fruit.
Besides attacking grapes, the European grapevine moth also has an appetite for cherries, apricots, pomegranates and blackberries.
"The district has acted very quickly," said Aaron Lange of LangeTwins Winery after the meeting. "They just found this five or six days ago, and they have already have a plan and are meeting with us."