Disease, Pest Research Increases for Georgia Grapes

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By Jaci Schreckengost

Research at the University of Georgia (UGA) is becoming more focused on wine grapes as the industry continues to grow in Georgia.

White County Extension Coordinator and Natural Resources Agent Nathan Eason says UGA’s current entomologist is putting a lot of effort into research on wine grapes for growers.

The elevation in Georgia varies depending on the location. With each location comes a new set of challenges, opportunities and grape varieties that are able to be grown.

Eason emphasizes the importance of growing grapes above an elevation of 1,300 to 1,400 feet, due to the effects of Pierce’s disease at elevations below that height. The cold weather combats Pierce’s disease and can lessen its harm on the crop.

Pierce’s disease is mainly vectored by the glassy-winged sharpshooter, Eason says, so it is important to have management control practices in place for this insect.

However, Eason says if grapes are grown on too high of an elevation, a grower risks having too much cold weather. Elevations above approximately 2,800 feet can reach temperatures that can hinder grape growth.

Another pest, the spotted wing drosophila, places a strain on grape growers. Once this insect comes into the plant, it can be a daunting task to remove it, as well as possible diseases that enter the plant along with it. Eason says researchers are working to capture and study spotted wing drosophila to learn the best management techniques for it.

Eason says humidity may create another hurdle for Georgia grape growers. However, many of the same pest and disease issues can be found in other East Coast locations where grapes are grown, such as Virginia.

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