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New Vineyard Pest to be Focus of Special Legislative Hearing in Riverside Oct. 12

New Vineyard Pest to be Focus of Special Legislative Hearing in Riverside Oct. 12

(October 6, 1999)

News Advisory

A plant disease which threatens to devastate California's famed wine grape industry will be the focus of a special legislative hearing to be convened at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, at the University of California, Riverside Extension Center, 1200 University Ave., Riverside.

Spread by an exotic insect pest called the glassy-winged sharpshooter, Pierce's disease kills grapevines. Some $1.2 million in damage has already been done in the Temecula Valley, one of the state's premier wine producing areas.

UCR scientists will be among those testifying before the California Assembly Committee on Agriculture chaired by Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced). Following the morning hearing in Riveriside members of the committee will travel by bus to Temecula where they will tour Callaway Vineyard and Winery, 32720 Rancho California Rd., from about 12:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. There they will see the damage first hand.

BACKGROUND: The glassy-winged sharpshooter -- a half-inch long brown insect belonging to the leafhopper family -- was first identified as a problem in the Temecula Valley in 1997. It feeds on plants infested with a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa, which causes Pierce's disease. After once acquiring the bacterium from an infested plant, the sharpshooter can transmit it to healthy plants throughout its life. Plants infected with Pierce's disease wither and die because the disease prevents life-sustaining water from traveling up the stems of grapevines. Vintners and scientists fear Pierce's disease could potentially spread to vineyards throughout California.

Research aimed at combating the insect and Pierce's disease is being funded by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which allocated $125,000, the Temecula City Council ($125,000) and Temecula vintners ($50,000). State legislation authorizing $3 mill ion over three years -- $2.25 million from the General Fund and $750,000 from private sources -- has been passed by the Senate and Assembly and is awaiting action by Gov. Gray Davis.

Among those scheduled to speak at the Oct. 12 hearing are: William J. Lyons, Jr., Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Jim Wallace, Riverside County agricultural commissioner; Roberto Ponte, president of the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association; Raymond L. Orbach, chancellor of the University of California, Riverside; and UCR entomologists Tim Paine and Richard Redak.

Members of the media are invited to cover the hearing and vineyard tour. For more information, contact Walter Hughes (Assemblyman Cardoza's office) at (916) 319-2026 or Kathy Barton (UCR) at (909) 787-2495.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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