Grant funds further investigation into vineyard infestation

A grant will fund further investigation into a pest infestation that can damage vineyards.

Colorado State University received a grant for $57,078 to investigate the prevalence of the Phylloxera louse in Colorado vineyards and recommend best management practices to limit the infestation.

The grant is among 12 worth a total of more than $600,000 awarded through the Colorado Department of Agriculture specialty crops program. Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops. Funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop block grant program to promote the competitiveness of specialty crops.

Phylloxera, an aphid-like insect that feeds on grapevine roots, was positively identified by entomologists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.

Phylloxera can take multiple forms during its life cycle. The most serious and damaging form, which was found in Mesa County, feeds on grapevine roots, in turn disrupting water and nutrient flow and damaging plants. Infested grapes appear weakened and stunted with leaves lighter in color that look as though they’re suffering from nutrient deficiency.

Nearly 75 percent of wine grape acreage in Colorado is located in the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area located along the Colorado River between Palisade and Grand Junction, said Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.

About 150 grape growers tend to a total of 1,000 acres of vineyards in Colorado. More than 140 commercial wineries produced a total of 166,000 cases of wine worth a collective $33 million during the 2016 fiscal year.