Within the next decade, the results of traditional and laboratory (GMO) research could begin to remove one of the most ferocious disease threats to California’s grape industry - Pierce’s disease - vectored by the glassy-winged sharpshooter (GWSS) pest.

“We are almost there in bringing to market the first round of solutions for the Pierce’s disease problem,” said Robert Wynn, statewide coordinator for the Pierce’s Disease Control Program, administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

“We have the technologies now available to control Pierce’s disease and want to commercialize the science for growers,” Wynn told wine grape growers at the Allied Grape Growers annual meeting in Fresno, Calif.

Within 3-5 years, new cultivars developed through traditional breeding could be on the commercial market. Disease resistant cultivars developed using biotechnology genetically mordified methods (GMOs) could be available to growers about a decade after that.

Wynn said, “Research dollars have produced a robust pipeline of diverse technologies including a strong portfolio of disease management strategies using different modes of action which is important over the long run.”

Pierce’s disease is caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa which plugs the water-conducting system (xylem) in plants, according to the UC Davis Pest Management Guidelines website.

Bacteria are spread from plant-to-plant by xylem-feeding insects, primarily the GWSS.

Symptoms appear when a significant amount of bacteria build up in the plant. By mid-season, some or all fruit clusters on an infected cane can wilt and dry. The tips of canes and roots may die back.

Up to now, insecticides have been the primary weapon to thwart bacteria transmission by the sharpshooter.