Moth Causes A Flutter In US Wine Region

By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
Last Updated: 2:28am BST  19/06/2007

Wine-makers in California are panicking over the arrival of a tiny moth that threatens to eat its way through their grape crop.

The light brown apple moth, a native of Australia, had never been found in the US before February this year when a retired entomologist near San Francisco caught one in a trap.

Since then, the insect has been found in nine counties throughout the state, including the Napa Valley, the famous wine-producing region.

Farmers are worried too. The creature has a voracious appetite, chomping its way through everything from apple, almond, avocado and apricot trees to strawberry, tomato, pumpkin and cabbage plants.

About 250 varieties of plants are thought to be at risk, along with the state's $5.4 billion (2.7 billion) apple, pear, orange and grape industry.

The state's department of food and agriculture says on its website that the moth has the potential to devastate California's natural ecosystems. The use of pesticides to combat the "exotic pest invader" would result in "environmental damage".

The state is America's leading agricultural exporter, shipping more than $7.2 billion (3.6 billion) in food and agricultural commodities around the world.

"It is a significant pest of wine grapes," Greg Clark, the assistant Napa county agricultural commissioner, told the New York Times. "If we have an infestation here, it's likely it could move into other agricultural regions."

Organic pesticides are already being sprayed in Oakley, in the Bay Area, and Napa. Further south, in Santa Cruz County, nearly 3,500 moths have been discovered with farmers setting thousands of traps to protect the area's profitable shrub, tree and flower business. Crops from affected counties are being quarantined.


Original article: Telegraph
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